Waterborne transport is a vital function for the liberated and borderless (transport) market of Europe. In potential it is a secure, safe and environmental-friendly way of transport. But not by itself. Transport by vessel (and container) is used to facilitate the types of crime, mentioned in the “DGHOME EU Policy Cycle”, such as Illegal migration, human trafficking, smuggle of drugs, arms and other goods, environmental crime and illegal employment/labour abuse. Also the breach of safety- and environmental rules in the domain of shipping causes considerable risks for our society.
Therefore the level of security, safety and environmental protection in relation to waterborne transport heavily depends on robust law- enforcement , that can function cross-border. Waterborne transport operates in a borderless Europe (inland shipping) as well as world-wide (maritime shipping).
Law-enforcement authorities are way behind on the developments in relation to the disappearance of borders in Europe and on the liberated transport market, and therefore also on the criminals that make use of these developments. This causes considerable risks for security, safety and for the environment. It also causes a big risk for the integrity of the transport industry itself. Simply said: “For waterborne transport in Europe the borders have disappeared; for law-enforcement the borders largely still exist”. This problem is ever increasing by new initiatives of the EU, aiming at more flexible and efficient transport and at a more liberated labour market. In order to keep the system in balance (economic- vs. security- and safety interests) law enforcement must also be organized in a more cross-border manner, sharing knowhow, intelligence and operational information.
AQUAPOL was established in 2002 and is fully dedicated to enhancement of safety and security on Europe’s main inland waterways as well as in the maritime domain. AQUAPOL aims at prevention of risks by improvement by enhancement of cross-border law-enforcement cooperation. As of 1-1-2016 AQUAPOL went through a mayor reform. Not all activities are undertaken anymore at EU level. The cross-border operational activities are now a responsibility of the so-called “HUBS”: clusters of countries in regions of Europe, that have common priorities (related to their geographical position) and that have a strong need of day-to-day cross-border cooperation. At central level the AQUAPOL President and the Director remain to take care of coordination between the HUBS and of all other processes that need to be carried out at “AQUAPOL level”, such as lobby, contacts with external stakeholders, IT-aspects of control databases and other expert systems and all other activities required for a smooth functioning of the organisation. In 2016 the AQUAPOL Work Plan was introduced. Until then AQUAPOL had used a rather wide variety of documents and papers, such as: policy plan, strategy document, action plan, annual calendar of activities, articles of association, membership lists etc. It was decided to bring all these documents together in one annual work plan. This plan contains all relevant information for AQUAPOL for a specific year and makes all other documents obsolete. The work plan is updated every year and contains all relevant information for that year. It is approved for the next year by the Council at the its annual December meeting. Also at this meeting the Council deals with the Annual Evaluation Report of the current year, which is prepared by the Director. At the end of every year the Work Plan for the next year and the Evaluation Report of the past year are published on the website. No other documents are published anymore. The Work Plan is the “Bible” for all members: one needs nothing else to be informed completely and precisely. In order to make it very easy for the members to monitor progress of the activities listed in the Work plan a monthly updated action list is also presented on the website.