A few years ago, Customs officer Ybele Steenstra started working as an analyst at the Maritime Information Hub (MIK-NL) in Den Helder. Here various agencies* combine their resources under the flag of the Coastguard, in order to provide joint surveillance of the North Sea. “Five fingers make a fist – in the fight against lawbreakers and criminals.”
“In earlier days, enforcement at sea was rather fragmented. Every government organisation monitored its own small section and the events within that 12-mile zone before the Dutch coast. Customs focused on the goods carried by the freighters, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee on the persons on-board the vessels, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority on fishing boats etc. Since the arrival of the MIK-NL, information assistants of the various agencies are physically grouped together, like a detached post. Everyone can draw data from their own source systems, which is subsequently compared to each other and to which data from open sources can be added at the same time – you can compare it to the different pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This soon results in a much clearer and completer picture of the events taking place at sea and the parties involved in it. This wide scope makes it easier to detect whether anything suspicious is going on and it facilitates any decision-making to carry out a specific inspection. In that case, an instruction is issued to one of our surveillance vessels – supported by an airborne unit or otherwise. The chances of any potential offenders being caught have increased thanks to this joint approach.”
* Dutch Customs, the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD), the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Maritime police and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.