Neil Watts

Neil Watts

Senior Contributor


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.

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.

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

Neil is a graduate of Stellenbosch University, the South African Executive National Security Program (First place and best academic paper) and the Joint Senior Command and Staff Course. He is currently concluding a Master’s Program in International Security and Global Justice. 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.