Brazilian Navy Installs Monitoring System to Fight Organized Crime

Guanabara Bay, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, is the center of a pilot project to protect Brazilian coastal waters.
Andréa Barretto/Diálogo | 14 September 2018

Capacity Building

Large screens at the Maritime Operations Theater Command Center of the Brazilian Navy’s Naval Operations Command in Rio de Janeiro provide information as part of the Guanabara Bay monitoring project. (Photo: Brazilian Navy)

The Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) is in the midst of a project in Guanabara Bay that follows vessels as they reach Rio de Janeiro’s eastern zone, as well as 14 municipalities in the state of the same name, in real time. Rio de Janeiro’s status as one of the largest centers of Brazilian organized crime, led to the project’s launch. The area is a point of entry and departure for weapons and drugs, and is center stage for other crimes. Illegal goods are smuggled via land, air, and water.

“By the end of 2018, the Navy hopes to complete installation of fixed sensors and cameras that form the monitoring and control system,” said MB Commander Rodrigo Pinheiro Padilha of  the Naval Operations Command’s Systems Division. About 70 percent of the system, including radars, is ready. Authorities set up the equipment at strategic points along the bay’s entrance and surrounding areas.

Four command centers, headquartered in different MB units throughout Rio de Janeiro, operate the equipment remotely. The setup, according to Cmdr. Padilha, allows for control and identification of suspicious activities aboard large and small ships that mostly travel at night to transport illegal goods and serve as an escape means for criminals.

The Guanabara Bay monitoring project started in 2015. Authorities used the system for security during the 2016 Olympic Games. The experience in Rio de Janeiro serves as a pilot project for a much broader program, the Blue Amazon Management System (SisGAAz, in Portuguese) that aims to protect mineral resources and fishing areas within Brazil’s maritime territory. The region, known as Blue Amazon, consists of about 4.5 million square kilometers.

Material and human resources

SisGAAz’s initial stage includes completion of the technological operational structure at Guanabara Bay, and agreements to exchange information with public security agencies. The goal is to provide concrete data to military commands and civil institutions to improve strategies against criminal actions that use maritime routes.

In late July 2018, in an operation with MB’s support, officers from the Federal Police’s Narcotics Enforcement Bureau located and seized 336 kilograms of cocaine inside a fishing boat. Authorities arrested three people pretending to be fishermen. “[Criminals] brought in the illegal goods via land. The gang typically receives goods in São Paulo, and transfers them to Rio using fishing boats,” said Carlos Eduardo Thomé, the officer who conducted the investigation leading to the drug seizure.

The Brazilian Navy’s First Naval District uses the DGS 888 Raptor speedboat to combat criminal operations in Guanabara Bay. (Photo: DGS Defense)

“Interoperability is the pilot project’s keyword,” Cmdr. Padilha said, adding that MB’s research and technology teams developed the system. The approach enables the integration and operation of monitoring equipment of the Navy and other information tools intelligence and security agencies, such as the Federal Police and the department of Federal Revenue, use.

“The project’s goal is to optimize the use of security forces, hence the development of IT support,” said Cmdr. Padilha. Currently, MB monitors Guanabara Bay through the Marine Corps General Command, the First Naval District Command, and the Rio de Janeiro Coast Guard, among other military units.

Members of the Combat Divers Group also participate. Known as amphibious combatants, the service members are trained to approach ships and take action in situations when the crew under investigation shows resistance.

Guaranteed additional security

Resources available to service members mobilized in the war on crime at Guanabara Bay increased with the addition of a new speedboat in July 2018. The DGS 888 Raptor vessel is armored, fast, and has broad maneuvering capacity.

According to MB Commander Ataíde de Melo, of the Naval Operations Command’s District Resources Division, the vessel manufacturer customized it to MB’s needs. “The company customized the existing DGS 888 Raptor model by creating an extended armored cabin for a small crew of up to six persons, guaranteeing more security for the crew during operations.”

The Fist Naval District currently uses the speedboat. MB purchased two additional boats of the same model that will be delivered in 2018.

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