Capt. (ret.) Neil Watts

Senior Expert Trainer, Sanctions, Maritime Security and Weapons Systems

Formerly a Captain with 33 years’ service in the South African Navy, Neil specialized in surface warfare and weapons systems, serving nearly 20 years at sea onboard a frigate and fast attack missile boats. Neil has served as the Maritime Expert on the United Nations Security Council Panel of Experts (POE) for North Korea for five years until July 2018. He investigated sanctions evasion, illicit shipments and networks, tracking suspect vessels worldwide and boarded several North Korean vessels, starting with the Chong Chon Gang in 2013. Neil was also responsible for monitoring North Korea’s navy, which included the Sea Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) program. He co-authored seven reports for the UN Security Council and authored the Maritime Sanctions Handbook for the DPRK. Neil has also contributed to many maritime sanctions articles and news broadcasts concerning North Korea’s illicit activities and sanctions evasion typologies.

Prior to joining the Panel, he served on the South African National Maritime Security Advisory Committee, the Priority Committee for Maritime Security, and as a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Counter-piracy Assessment Group. Until 2013, he was responsible for developing and executing the national counter piracy strategy in the Indian Ocean and maritime operations.

Neil has conducted extensive sanctions training for the Maritime industry, State departments and related agencies, and Flag State registries, on sanctions, best practices and effective due diligence. He advises on Maritime Security – including sanctions compliance and implementation, WMD interdiction, counter-proliferation, vessel tracking systems and databases, port security, vessel seizure, and counter-piracy.

Neil holds a master’s degree in international security and Global Justice from Brooklyn College, and is a graduate of Stellenbosch University (Nautical Science and Political Science), the South African Executive National Security Program (First place and best academic paper) and the Joint Senior Command and Staff Course. He is Senior Research Associate for Kings College London, United Kingdom – Project Alpha, and a member of the Institute for International Security Studies, and the Korea Society.

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