Mexico Strengthens Navy's Power to Fight Maritime Crime

The Mexican Navy Commission approved reforms to strengthen its legal authority to combat maritime crime. The reforms allow the Navy to inspect vessels, use force in certain situations, and make arrests. They also establish penalties for polluting the sea.

Mexico Strengthens Navy's Power to Fight Maritime Crime
A Mexican Navy ship sails across the blue water, protecting the country's maritime borders.

In a blended meeting, the Navy Commission, chaired by Deputy Jaime Martínez López (Morena), approved, with modifications, the opinion on the initiative that reforms various provisions of the Organic Law of the Mexican Navy, the Organic Law of the Federal Public Administration and the National Law on the Use of Force, regarding maritime crime.

The document, approved unanimously by 16 votes, also modifies the Federal Law to Prevent and Punish Crimes Committed in the Matter of Hydrocarbons, the National Code of Criminal Procedures and the Federal Penal Code.

The Organic Law of the Mexican Navy establishes that it is the responsibility of the military institution to implement, on behalf of the Mexican State, and through its surface and air naval units in the Mexican Exclusive Economic Zone and the High Seas, the right of visit and persecution in terms of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Likewise, the actions of boarding, registration and inspection of ships and boats, and in general, the measures established in the international treaties to which the Mexican State is a party in matters of combating illicit acts committed at sea.

The reform adds that, in accordance with the Protocol of Action of naval personnel on Coast Guard functions, the individuals, objects, instruments, and products related to it will be made available to the competent authority when in the exercise of functions, legal cases, the possible commission of an act that the law designates as a crime occurs.

For its part, the modifications to the Organic Law of the Federal Public Administration indicate that it is up to the Secretariat and Citizen Protection to implement the actions and measures established in the international treaties to which the Mexican State is a party in matters of combating illicit acts committed at sea.

Meanwhile, the modification of the National Law on the Use of Force establishes that throwing objects against the surface units of the Mexican Navy, intending to sink them or against the crew with the purpose of causing injuries, is considered an imminent lethal threat, serious injuries or death, such as harpoons, knives, improvised explosive devices, among others.

It defines that the use of force at sea “is that carried out by the naval personnel of the Mexican Navy in coast guard functions, in the Mexican marine zones established in the Federal Law of the Sea and those permitted in the international treaties of which The Mexican State is a party, following the procedures and protocols established by the applicable legal norms; Its purpose is to safeguard the life, freedoms, integrity, and property of people, as well as to contribute to the maintenance of the rule of law at sea.”

The Federal Penal Code establishes that a penalty of one to nine years in prison and a fine of 300 to 3,000 days will be imposed on anyone who throws pollutants, dangerous materials, dangerous waste into the sea from a ship or vessel or sinks vessels, that cause a risk of damage or harm natural resources, flora, fauna, water quality, ecosystems, or the environment.

He adds that when it comes to plastics or any other solid material, imprisonment of up to six months and a fine of up to one thousand pesos will be imposed.

In the Third Transitory article it states that no extensions to its budget will be authorized for the current fiscal year or subsequent ones as a result of the entry into force of this Decree.

The opinion states that it is vitally important to establish the specific rules and procedures under which naval personnel can exercise the use of force and use appropriate weapons to carry out their functions.

The deputy president of the Navy Commission, Jaime Martínez López, pointed out that the opinion brings together the necessary elements to strengthen the legal framework of action of the Secretary of the Navy (Semar) in the fight against maritime crime.

He reported that it contains the observations made by Congresswoman Julia Licet Jiménez Angulo (PAN) and the ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Navy, Security and Citizen Protection, and Finance and Public Credit, as well as the Justice Commission and the Center for Public Finance Studies of the Chamber of Deputies.