Experts from NATO and Colombia joined up to support the Colombian Armed Forces’ efforts in their ongoing fight against maritime piracy and narcotics during a workshop sponsored by the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, held in Copenhagen, Denmark from 27 to 29 May 2019.
In recent years, South American and Caribbean waters have seen a rise in piracy and narcotics trafficking, with Colombian maritime territory being a hot spot. To address this issue, experts from the Royal Danish Defence College in Copenhagen and the Colombian National War College in Bogota held an advanced research workshop on “Counter-Terrorism Lessons from Maritime Piracy and Narcotics interdiction” in order to help Colombia protect its critical maritime infrastructure, such as ports and supplies, as well as personnel from terrorist attacks.
“Protecting our seas will contribute to protecting our societies and preserve trade fluxes and exchanges, but will also enhance our opportunities to address critical issues for Colombia such as drug trafficking and piracy,” said Colombian Navy Rear Admiral Orlando Grisales at the workshop.
NATO’s first-ever scientific project with Colombia
This project is the first-ever scientific activity between NATO and Colombia. It addressed the need to approach maritime security from a broader angle and to incorporate lessons learned from narrower domains such as maritime narcotics trafficking and piracy, in order to effectively tackle seaborne terrorism.
“Colombia’s own extensive experience with counter-narcotics, asymmetric warfare and counter-terrorism is invaluable to other participants,” said Dr Deniz Beten, Senior NATO SPS and Partnership Cooperation Advisor. “Likewise, Colombia is ready to consult and cooperate with nations that have practice and experience in the field.”
Participants at the event included representatives from organisations that contribute to the fight against seaborne terrorism, such as the European Union Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre, the INTERPOL Maritime Directorate, think-tanks, navies and defence colleges from 16 countries. Students from the Colombian National War College and the Royal Danish Defence College also participated.
Following the conference, recommendations for best practices and technological innovations to manage seaborne terrorism have been made. “It is my sincere hope that the Royal Danish Defence College will continue to serve as a bridge connecting the Alliance with its only Latin American partner,” concluded RAdm Henrik Ryberg, Commandant of the Royal Danish Defence College.
In 2008, at the request of the United Nations, NATO began supporting international efforts to combat maritime piracy in the Gulf of Aden, in the Indian Ocean and off the Horn of Africa through different military operations. In 2015, Colombia contributed a vessel to NATO’s operation Ocean Shield, a maritime operation to counter piracy off the Horn of Africa. Today, NATO is maintaining its counter-piracy efforts at sea and ashore by supporting countries in the region as they build the capacity to fight piracy themselves.
NATO and Colombia have been engaged in dialogue and cooperation since 2013. Colombia is one of a range of countries beyond the Euro-Atlantic area – often referred to as “partners across the globe” – with which NATO is developing relations.