Fighting crime and violations at sea was crucial to the security and sovereignty of the country, security officials said at a seminar in HCM City on April 19.

Speaking at the seminar on marine safety, officials from the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said cooperation between countries was critical in crime prevention.

Major Gen Pham Huy Tap, national border guard deputy commander, said: "Matters sometimes can be dealt with by one country or one single force, but they should involve bilateral and multilateral cooperation."

Tap said disputes on sovereignty and jurisdiction were one of the most vulnerable matters in the security of the nation.

Piracy was an important issue, which also led to disputes on marine sovereignty at a time when several countries had drawn up closure policies on sea territories and islands.

Issues affecting natural resources were also critical, including matters related to pollution, unplanned fishing, vessel capture, and conflicts among fishermen about fishing areas.

Marine smuggling and trade fraud were also a problem.

"It is a huge waste of national resources when hundreds of boats and ship continue to smuggle from Vietnam to other countries," Tap said.

"Matters on sea are complex and might lead to an imbalance in security or even armed conflicts or war, unless we have proper and smart solutions."

Lt Gen Prof Tran Dai Quang, Deputy Minister of Public Security, said crime and violations on sovereignty, drugs and trafficking on sea were on the rise.

Thus, the police, customs, border guards, navy and diplomatic personnel should work more closely in dealing with the problems, he added.

"The work between these groups and Interpol or ASEANPOL to have effective management on sea security is also necessary," he said.

Dr Nguyen Thi Lan Anh of the Institute for Foreign Affairs said countries that share sea areas can benefit from shared fighting against crime at sea.

She suggested that countries develop bilateral work and commitments in the area of sea security.

Vietnam has 3,200km of coastline stretching from northern Quang Ninh province to southern Ha Tien, territorial waters and continental shelves of some 1 million square kilometres, 112 estuaries, 47 bays and about 3,000 islands and islets./.