Freight insurer, TT Club, is increasing its efforts to promote industry awareness of both trends in criminal activity and methods of combatting it.
This comes in response of the rise in contraband drugs entering Europe via ports on the Atlantic seaboard.
TT reported that it is committing significant resource to collating detailed reporting, including that of its 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.
According to TT Club, criminal gangs utilising the complexity of European import trades to smuggle in drugs has increased over the past two months.
Reports include cocaine found in containers of fruit through the Port of Antwerp, narcotics in reefer containers carrying melons from Panama discovered in Rotterdam, while ecstasy with a value of €1.5 million ($1.6 million) was found in a truck at Calais.
Additionally, Le Havre is emerging as a hotspot for cocaine imports, 133 kilos of marijuana and hashish was discovered at the Port of Motril in southern Spain brought in from North Africa, while news of smuggling gangs with links to Brazil who operate in Lisbon and Oporto came to light.
Additionally, earlier this year, an MSC containership that was a part of a fake bomb threat investigation outside the Port of Antwerp was discovered to have smuggled more than 2.4 tonnes amounts of cocaine.
With the potentially enormous profits to be made within the drugs trade, employees and workers in the transport infrastructure are often bribed to facilitate the illicit activity.
According to TT Club, customs officials and police officers are not beyond corruption and the current levels of inflation and high living costs are further incentivising those that were perhaps beyond reproach in the past.
In addition to the corruption, threats made by criminal syndicates against key contacts at the ports are common to ensure their compliance and silence, TT Club added.
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.
As a result of the prevalence of these incidences drug trafficking, security at the frequently targeted ports have been increased.
“These are just fragments of the evidence that we have of the crucial role ports are playing in the illicit drug trade across Western Europe,” said Mike Yarwood, Managing Director Loss Prevention at TT Club.
“110 tonnes of cocaine were seized at the port of Antwerp last year and much has been reported of how the city has become the European hub for drug importation.
“But the network of channels for the trade is widespread and few ports along the seaboard can turn a blind eye to the problem,” Yarwood added.
“In response, European port authorities have worked to implement additional security measures to combat this trade and its concurrent violence,” said Erica Bressner, BSI’s European Analyst.
“However, the control of the criminal syndicates is such that they have the ability to adapt their smuggling routes to evade authorities.
“This includes a diversification of smuggling routes to target non-traditional ports of entry where security measures are less intensive,” Bressner added.
This announcement comes a week after TT Club announced it has joined the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) in a move to underline further the mutual insurer’s commitment to making the industry safer and more secure.