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Weekly Spotlight: 18 February 2024

1.      Trinidad and Tobago Declares National State of Emergency Following Oil Spill

On 12 February 2024, a national state of emergency was declared by Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, following reports of an oil spill approximately ten miles south-west of the island of Tobago. Allegedly, the spill began when a barge capsized after running aground near a reef located approximately 500 feet from Cove Estate, causing the vessel to leak fuel into the surrounding water. Due to the extent of the spill, policymakers in Grenada, Guyana, and other neighbouring states have since been contacted by both Trinidadian and CARICOM representatives with plans to execute joint responses to mitigate a potential ecological crisis. In an official statement, Prime Minister Rowley explained that although information regarding the incident’s exact sequence of events remained unknown, the Trinidadian government will “spare no expense” to help rehabilitate the island’s beaches moving forward.


2.      Cyprus Joins Great Sea Interconnector Project to Boost Energy Security

On 13 February 2024, Cyprus announced its intention to join the Great Sea Interconnector Project, an initiative which aims to connect the energy grids of Greece, Israel, and Central Europe to improve the region’s overall energy security. The project’s first stages will involve the construction of a high-voltage subsea transmission cable running from the Israeli town of Hadera to the southern Cypriot village of Kofinou, before a second cable joins Kofinou with the Greek island of Crete, which will ultimately connect with the Greek and European mainland. Christiana Erotokritou, President of the Cypriot House finance committee, described the project as “an ambitious endeavour…fostering unity and stability,” arguing that the initiative will “not only strengthen the EU’s energy security, but also create new opportunities for economic growth and regional cooperation.”


3.      Tanzanian Naval Personnel Complete Maritime Security Workshop

From 12-16 February, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) held a maritime security workshop for members of the Tanzanian Navy, which aimed to develop the capacity of national authorities to implement effective control and compliance measures on seafaring vessels. The workshop, which was attended by officers from both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar, provided personnel with insights regarding the application of control and compliance measures under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), specifically Chapter XI-2 on special measures to enhance maritime security. Furthermore, the workshop also encouraged knowledge sharing and the exchange of best practices to promote a robust understanding of what effective and adequately staffed control and compliance regimes entail.


4.      High-Profile Terrorist Eliminated Following Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Security Operation

During the early morning hours (local time) of 11 February, Pakistani security forces conducted a targeted operation in which Surat Gul, a well-known local Islamist terrorist commander known as Saif Ullah, was eliminated in the Khyber District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Using intelligence reports to initially locate the suspect, state security units engaged in a firefight at Mr Gul’s residence, culminating in his eventual neutralisation. Following the raid, authorities recovered a cache of weapons, ammunition, and explosives from Mr Gul’s home, demonstrating the target’s clear danger to civilians and government security forces alike.


5.      Fijian Border Security Staff Complete Comprehensive Skills Training Programme

In response to recent events, including the seizure of over 4.8 tonnes of methamphetamine in late January 2024, Fijian security personnel have begun a two-week training course aimed at improving coordination and capacity building measures within the border service. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the training program will equip security staff with essential knowledge and skills for conducting vessel searches, in addition to improving overall governance systems for the monitoring and enforcement of border control measures. Furthermore, the programme reportedly encourages attendees to consider methods of creating more comprehensive approaches to border management, ranging from placing greater emphasis on soft skills such as communication and collaboration, to the introduction of greater diversity within the border service.


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