November 2, 2010

Global Crackdown on Illegal Hazardous Waste Shipping Confirms Benefits of Cross-Border Cooperation

Filed under: Africa, Asia, Europe, INECE Secretariat, North America, seaports — inece @ 1:26 pm

An example of a container declared as paper waste but found to be a mixture of household waste upon inspection. Photo credit Jurgen Braun.

A simultaneous environmental inspection initiative at seaports in June and July 2010 involving authorities from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe resulted in the detection of illegal hazardous and electronic waste and confirmed the benefits of informal international cooperation to respond to illegal transboundary movement of hazardous wastes through seaports.

Initial results indicate that, of the 72 total targeted inspections conducted during the inspection month, 54% were infringements. The illegal waste streams most often encountered during the event were: e-waste wrongly declared as second hand goods, waste batteries wrongly described as plastic or mixed metal scrap, and cathode ray tubes from television and computer monitors wrongly classified as metal scrap. In 19 of the reported cases of infraction, the illegal shipments of waste were returned to the country of origin. In 9 further cases, the detected waste was treated in the country of detection.

More than one dozen countries participated in the International Hazardous Waste Inspections Exercise at Seaports, an initiative coordinated by the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement’s (INECE) Seaport Environmental Security Network (SESN). Involved authorities, which included customs, environment, police and port officials, conducted inspections at seaports across the globe.

Project participants employed a variety of inspections techniques, including intelligence-led enforcement, at-random inspections, and bilateral information-sharing. Close communication between officials in importing and exporting countries and coordination of agencies at the national level proved to be critically important in detecting and stopping illegal shipments.

Durwood Zaelke, Director of the INECE Secretariat commented, “The sheer volume of containers moving through seaports makes it difficult to catch the bad guys. It is essential to develop state-of-the-art programs for container inspection and enforcement.”

The Inspection Exercise was supported by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. Ms. Juliette Voinov Kohler, Policy and Legal officer at the Secretariat of the Basel Convention said, “The inspection exercise provided enforcement entities and environmental agencies from participating countries with a welcome opportunity to cooperate concretely with one another and with other countries in preventing, detecting and dealing with potential cases of illegal traffic of hazardous and other wastes.”

The event was also supported by IMPEL, a network of representatives from authorities of the European Union Member States involved in the inspection and enforcement of transfrontier shipments of waste and other environmental laws. IMPEL Board Chair Gerard Wolters explained, “The results of the INECE SESN exercise emphasize that practical enforcement cooperation is essential to helping combat one of the biggest global environmental challenges — illegal transboundary movement of hazardous wastes through seaports. IMPEL helped make the exercise a success by sharing its experience on cross-border enforcement actions, which has been developed through pioneering cooperation projects since 2004. The alignment of international hazardous waste enforcement initiatives such as the IMPEL and INECE projects will be very important as we move forward. I hope these activities will continue in the near future.”

Designed primarily as a capacity building exercise, preparation and training of enforcement officers prior to the event were also keys to its success. In Nigeria, for example, officials organized a program that was attended by 82 participants comprising of officials of the National Toxic Waste Dump Watch Programme Committee. The Committee includes members from eight national agencies, including the national environment agency, customs and Navy.

The SESN participants will continue to collaborate in the future to detect and deter illegal shipments of hazardous waste through seaports.

A detailed report of results and lessons from the exercise is forthcoming in late Fall 2010. For additional information and to be notified of the release of the report, visit For more information about the SESN, contact Danielle Grabiel, Office of the INECE Secretariat, at dgrabiel at

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