If you are reading this article on a computer or a mobile device that was imported from another country, it most likely came in a box transported in a container ship, since the majority of goods, including a good deal of food, raw materials, and basic necessities are transported by sea.
According to official statistics from the Panama Canal Authority, 3 percent of all goods transported globally by sea crossed the isthmus of Panama in 2016, through the canal connecting the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
Oceans have always played a central role in many countries’ defense strategies. In order to prevent international criminal networks from operating in their waters, governments are forced to ensure security at sea.
That’s why, Panama’s Air and Naval Service (SENAN, per its Spanish acronym), is co-hosting more than 100 members of official institutions responsible for security and defense from various countries. Participants in search of ways to ensure better security at sea will talk with representatives from specialized equipment manufacturing firms to discuss shared issues for countries in the region, including topics related to the joint fight against transnational organized crime, the importance of interagency cooperation, terrorism, the economy, and the environment.
The 2017 Caribbean Basin Coastal Surveillance and Maritime Security Summit (CABSEC) and the South American Security Summit (SAMSEC) will be held March 21st-23rd in Panama City, according to the website for the event.
Maritime security, drug trafficking, organized crime, and interagency coordination processes will be among the key topics to be discussed at the summit.
Commissioner Jesús Rodríguez, coordinator of the event for SENAN, told Diálogo that so far 120 attendees have been confirmed, including ministers of defense, chiefs of various armed forces and directors of different security forces from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the United States, Mexico, and others. Military and civilian representatives from other parts of the world will also participate.
During the summit, attendees will address recent experiences in the region with humanitarian aid, as well as topics related to interdiction operations against drug traffickers and other security issues.
They will also analyze the evolution of regional asymmetric threats, challenges fighting organized crime, and the Afghan experience controlling drug trafficking, which had very good results and is used as a model to follow.
Rodrigo Cigarruista, manager of Security and Surveillance at the Panama Canal, told Diálogo that event participants will split up for specialized presentations, work sessions for finding solutions to challenges, and later debates in which experts will procure supplies from different participating entities used for regional and national security and defense designs.
Presenters participating in the conference from U.S. Southern Command will emphasize the coordination process of the Joint Interagency Task Force–South. They will also discuss the current nature of transnational and transregional threats.
Summit participants also expect to discuss issues related to best practices for agency cooperation, the importance of interdiction during operations against drug traffickers in international waters, intelligence-driven maritime security for optimally efficient use of resources, and information exchange.
“Let’s not forget that because of their circumstances, organized crime and drug trafficking are activities that tend to change quickly. It is essential to get in front of it to be able to hold back these advances that they make every year,” Cigarruista said.
Among the themes discussed, there will be dynamics that will allow authorities to take charge of control, security, and defense in their countries. The officers and delegates attending the summit are responsible for providing security and defense to more than one billion people combined.
Importance for Panama
According to Commissioner Rodríguez, participants are seeking to “strengthen ties of friendship, and this leads to improving strategies in the fight against organized crime and current threats like drug trafficking, terrorism, and human trafficking.”
The summit will also allow them to prepare for confronting other emerging threats to improve security throughout the hemisphere. Other subjects that will be covered include immigration, corruption and money laundering. All matters that cause security problems. “Every country brings its experiences, achievements, and failures to help the rest of the group,” Commissioner Rodríguez explained.
Cigarruista said the event is important for Panama from the perspective of the canal. “Panama, being a multimodal logistical center and possessing the largest passageway, represented by the canal, is getting a lot out of this summit, learning the regional status of the criminal situation, since this allows us to create designs that strengthen interconnection processes and allows us to create a secure route for worldwide maritime commerce, thereby strengthening our national interests.”