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Fight against drug smuggling: European port alliance founded

Caption: Customs

A “European Port Alliance” against drug smuggling has been officially launched in Brussels. Hamburg and Bremerhaven are among the 20 ports involved.

The main aim of the private-public partnership between the EU, police, customs, port companies and terminal operators is to find solutions to protect ports from drug trafficking and criminal infiltration. [ds_preview]

The initiative was launched by the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, in Antwerp. The Belgian port city will also be home to the headquarters and coordinate the measures.

“Rival criminal groups are working together, assembling cargo on one side of the Atlantic and then distributing it on the other side, here in Europe. We are now joining forces to stop bribery, corruption and threats in our ports,” says Johansson.

More and more drugs in European ports

In 2023, a drastic increase in the seizure of drugs was observed in several European countries. Gangs often exploit security gaps in the ports.

The initiative is based on the EU roadmap to combat drug trafficking and organized crime and follows the announcement by EU President Ursula von der Leyen that she intends to introduce measures to combat drug smuggling this year.

300 tons of cocaine seized alone

In recent years, the amount of cocaine seized in the EU alone has reached a record level of 300 tons per year. In Belgium alone, the authorities seized 121 tons, an increase of 10% compared to the previous year. Five port workers were also arrested in Hamburg at the beginning of October for allegedly being involved in cocaine smuggling in shipping containers.

Ports account for 75% of the EU’s foreign trade volume and 31% of its domestic trade volume. Ports are, therefore, particularly vulnerable to abuse by high-risk criminal networks.

The European Ports Alliance therefore has the following objectives:

  • Mobilize customs authorities against drug trafficking in order to strengthen risk management and carry out more targeted and effective controls in ports, taking into account the fact that 70% of customs seizures of drugs take place in ports
  • Strengthening law enforcement activities in ports and against the criminal organizations behind drug trafficking with the support of Europol, Eurojust and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and through targeted actions in the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats
  • Establishing a public-private partnership to combat drug smuggling in order to raise awareness among the various stakeholders, but also to support port authorities and private shipping companies in their role in the fight against drug trafficking and criminal infiltration.

The focus is on identifying weaknesses, sharing best practices and finding practical solutions to improve port security.

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