The description of state borders today in our region seems to be different from state to state, despite the proximity they may have to each other. This is an obvious factor especially in the case of countries which can be considered as a bridge between outside and inside the European Union. The situation is more complicated when such a state has intersecting boundaries as land, sea and air. First it will have to protect the illegal entry of refugees coming from war-torn countries or Third World countries and secondly, it will have to ensure the clandestine non-crossing of persons from their country to another country.
Refugees continue to use areas of difficult geographical terrain as crossing points, endangering their lives. New technologies such as tracking devices are helping to reduce unsafe border areas. But is it possible for a state to have every inch of its land border under control? Even the most technologically advanced countries have the passage of clandestines by land. The same problem can be encountered at maritime borders.
Today maritime state borders are also traceable through radar and other marine tracking devices. But the possible clandestine passage of vessels has not been extinguished. There is an added task as well: protecting and saving lives at sea. People trying to cross the border illegally will have to be protected and their lives saved. Then there are problems related to territorial waters in which they were traced and the state to where repatriation should take place.
The Covid-19 pandemic added new problems to border control modalities. Today there must be methods of control while maintaining a safe distance from the individual. Cybercrime is also evolving in parallel with the technology and must be considered.
Another unresolved issue is the definition of border areas. When we are dealing with countries that do not yet have a defined maritime border area, the problem of using natural land and sea resources arises. Crossing with or without realizing it may impact natural resources such as fisheries which can also mean violating the sovereignty of a state. But are they criminals? Does it constitute a criminal precedent, especially in cases where maritime boundaries may not yet be defined? These questions are answered only in internationally recognized practices and relevant conventions. And yet, common international practices can lead to the best use of natural resources by agreeing on security in these maritime border areas. Given the diversity of border issues, inter-institutional cooperation of border control bodies is essential and already defined in legislation.
A model of inter-institutional cooperation for the protection of state maritime borders is the Security Committee which is a mandatory organization for every international port by the Solas Convention — Chapter XI — International Ship and Port Security Code. Essentially, improving the protection of each state’s borders includes cooperation with neighboring states and cooperation with international administrations.
In accordance with the ISPS code and the law no. 168/2013 “On Security in Ships and Ports” the State Maritime Security Authority, a department of the General Maritime Directorate, has been operating in the Republic of Albania for 13 years. The State Maritime Security Authority is the authority that coordinates the work, monitors the implementation of the law, international codes and conventions for security in the ports of the Republic of Albania and ships with the Albanian flag.
The State Maritime Security Authority takes the necessary measures to strengthen the security on ships and in the open ports of the Republic of Albania. It also guarantees the measures taken are in accordance with the national law, “On Security on Ship and Ports.”
The State Maritime Security Authority periodically checks the security exercises at the port terminals according to the security plan, to test their response in cases of danger, and compiles a detailed report on the state of the security force after the exercise. The State Maritime Security Authority may realize bilateral or multilateral agreements for alternative security measures covering short international voyages. And the State Maritime Security Authority carries out periodic effectiveness inspections in the open ports of the Republic of Albania to assess the implementation of the Port Security Plan.
Republic of Albania cooperates with the United States Coast Guard to monitor the open ports. At the end of each visit, the American Coast Guard gives its suggestions for improving security in the open ports of the Republic of Albania. Today, every open port of the Republic of Albania has at its disposal a complete infrastructure for monitoring the surrounding perimeter, land and sea border control through human resources and land and sea means. Considering the level of risk that sensitive places like ports and airports carry, the inspection by our authority aims to control port security to prevent border risks. Border risks include attempts to cross the border illegally as well as contraband or attempted smuggling of narcotics and prohibited substances.
Since the middle of 2019, the main risk has been illegal border crossings. For two years, the Security Force of the Durrës Port Authority faced an average of 15-20 people every day who tried to cross the border illegally. Today this number has decreased significantly and is moving towards minimization through the efforts of the authority. Narcotics smuggling is a problem that is the center of attention of law enforcement agencies on the maritime borders of the Republic of Albania. Our Authority operates under the International Ship and Port Security Code. Our authority coordinates the work with the ports and monitors them for compliance with the security plan.
Reports of incidents that occur in each port are referred to our authority by the Port Security Officer who also declares the measures taken, and more specifically by the Security Force or by the Port Police. All incident reports that refer to the State Maritime Security Authority are collected and placed in a separate database for each port and at the end of the month they are combined for all ports.
At the end of each month, the exact data is available on the incidents in each port as well as the measures taken. Every six months, the authority issues specific analyses on past risks in each port and at this moment new tasks are distributed for each port to prevent the increase of each risk. Findings of deficiencies are mostly encountered in the perimeter fences of the ports, in the fulfillment of tasks by the Port Security Force as well as in the identification of the most sensitive areas. Special attention is paid to camera surveillance as well as training.
The Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) discloses data on ports, capacity and their level of security. If a port loses the right to an international security certificate, this is declared in the GISIS system.
This article originally appeared in Border Security Report and was republished with permission. You can see the original piece by clicking here.