Freight Industry must Resist the Tidal Wave of Drug Smuggling
In response to the exponential growth in contraband drugs entering Europe via ports on the Atlantic seaboard, specialist freight insurer TT Club is increasing its efforts to promote industry awareness of both trends in criminal activity and methods of combatting its success.
In the past two months, since the beginning of April, yet more examples of criminal gangs utilizing the complexity of European import trades to smuggle in drugs have continued to emerge. Reports include cocaine in containers of fruit through the port of Antwerp; in Rotterdam narcotics were discovered in reefer containers carrying melons from Panama; ecstasy with a value of €1.5 million in a truck at Calais and Le Havre emerging as a hotspot for cocaine imports; 133 kilos of marijuana and hashish at the Port of Motril in southern Spain brought in from North Africa, and news of smuggling gangs with links to Brazil operating in Lisbon and Oporto.
To open the industry’s eyes to the dangers yet further, TT is committing significant resource to collating detailed reporting, including that of their partner BSI Screen, to create greater awareness of the sophisticated methods that criminals employ, the extent of their geographical reach and the diverse gateways they are using to supply the vast European market for illicit drugs.
With the potentially enormous profits to be made within the drugs trade, funds to bribe port employees and others working in the transport infrastructure are readily available. Customs officials and police officers are not beyond corruption and the current levels of inflation and high living costs are further incentivizing those that were perhaps beyond reproach in the past. In addition to corruption, the criminal syndicates are able to discover key contacts at the ports (often online and through social media) and threaten them and their families with harm to ensure their compliance and silence.
Ports offer an attractive transfer point for drugs from sea going vessels and containers to trucks. These trucks leaving for the hinterland can contain contraband, often without the driver’s knowledge, and are hijacked, increasingly by heavily armed and brutal gangs. Also becoming more extensive is computer hacking, either to directly obtain information of a specific containers whereabouts or intended destinations, or to plant tracking software that facilitates raids at pinpointed locations.
Much more vigilance across European port communities is clearly required. TT’s Yarwood outlines one strategy, “Employee vetting and training both in terms of motivating them to be vigilant and loyal but also in terms of maintaining secure processes of documentation and online communication. Identifying the more common origin points of contraband cargo, such as South America and North Africa, and ‘rogue’ consignees and unexpected delivery points will help,” he advises.
Security at the established targeted ports has naturally been increased with, for example a new seventy-strong security corps established in Antwerp, increased CCTV surveillance and the use of drones in Rotterdam, and a specialist anti-drug trafficking police unit in the Netherlands. However, the crime groups are well entrenched, having established long tentacles throughout supply chains and are sophisticated in their expertise and knowledge of how trade works.
About TT Club
TT Club is the established market-leading independent provider of mutual insurance and related risk management services to the international transport and logistics industry. TT Club’s primary objective is to help make the industry safer and more secure. Founded in 1968, the Club has more than 1100 Members, spanning container owners and operators, ports and terminals, and logistics companies, working across maritime, road, rail, and air. TT Club is renowned for its high-quality service, in-depth industry knowledge and enduring Member loyalty. It retains more than 97% of its Members with a third of its entire membership having chosen to insure with the Club for 20 years or more.
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