The Netherlands and Belgium enlist shipping companies in fight against drug smuggling

The Netherlands, Belgium and five leading multinational shipping companies are joining forces against organised crime in Rotterdam and Antwerp’s sea ports. This was agreed today at a conference in Antwerp, themed ‘Working together on a secure and trustworthy port’. The joint effort will involve smart containers that will trigger an alarm when tampered with, employee screening, the exchange of information and the development of more international security standards to combat crime and global drug smuggling.

The joint Declaration on the Fight against Cross-border Organised Drug Crime was signed by the Ministers Yeşilgöz-Zegerius (Justice and Security) and Harbers (Infrastructure and Water Management) and State Secretary De Vries (Benefits and Customs) for the Netherlands; Prime Minister De Croo, Deputy Prime Ministers Van Peteghem (Finance) and Van Quickenborne (Justice and the North Sea) and Minister Verlinden (Interior) for Belgium; the mayors Aboutaleb of Rotterdam and De Wever of Antwerp; and senior executives of the five leading shipping companies MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag Lloyd and Seatrade.

Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius:

‘Criminal power structures have become multinationals, with activities around the world. To dismantle them, we have teamed up with Belgium and leading shipping companies to work on a global standard to combat organised crime. One of the most common methods to smuggle drugs is to hide them in shipping containers or other cargo or inside vessels. At the same time, the accompanying ruthless violence and corruption pose a major threat to our society and economy. The government and the private sector need to band together if they want to deal with this effectively. It follows that we have a joint responsibility to stop large-scale drug smuggling and the violence and intimidation that go with it.’

Minister Harbers:

‘The harbours of Rotterdam and Antwerp are of vital economic importance – not just to the Netherlands and Belgium, but to the rest of Europe as well. The factors that make these harbours so appealing to businesses and countries across the globe also attract drug criminals. I am pleased that we have been joined in this initiative by leading shipping companies. The use of smart technologies like smart seals will allow us to start rooting out this problem.’

State Secretary De Vries:

‘The record seizures in the harbours of Rotterdam and Antwerp are illustrative of the size of the drug smuggling problem in both countries. That is why we stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight against subversive drug-related crime. The Dutch and Belgian customs authorities are already working closely together, for example to obtain and study radiographic images from Latin America. Shipping companies also possess vast quantities of information on the countries where many drugs originate. This is a natural result of their vessels mooring in so many harbours. We will therefore step up the exchange of information, so that our customs authorities can target checks more efficiently and we can increase the chance of catching these criminals in the act.’