Tenerife drugs in vessel ballast tank

The EU launched a new initiative on Wednesday to crack down on drugs being trafficked through European ports.

The European Ports Alliance was launched by the European Commission in cooperation with the Belgian Presidency, as the latest step to increase the fight against drug trafficking through Europe’s ports.

It comes as Europe has seen a dramatic increase in drug smuggling with accusations that port operations have become overrun by drug cartels.

Seizures of cocaine in the EU are at record levels, with more than 300 tonnes seized on an annual basis in recent years.

In Belgium alone, authorities seized a record 121 metric tonnes of cocaine at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges in 2023, a 10% increase from the previous year, in accordance with the data of European Commission.

The European Port Alliance focuses on mobilizing the customs community against drug trafficking.

They look to support more targeted and effective controls in ports, while also strengthening law enforcement operations in ports and against criminal organizations.

They will also seek support and coordination with law enforcement agencies including Europol, Eurojust, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, and through dedicated actions within the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats.

The public-private partnership is also designed to raise awareness among the different actors and support port authorities and private shipping companies in their role in the fight against drug trafficking and criminal infiltration.

It will focus on identifying vulnerabilities, sharing best practices and finding practical solutions to strengthen port security. It will address intimidation, corruption and criminal infiltration in ports, through the implementation of international and EU security standards and cooperation between law enforcement and customs with public and private operators working in the ports.

The launch will be followed by a joint declaration, stating the commitment of law enforcement, customs and public and private operators working in ports, to address together the threats posed by organised crime.

On 18 October 2023 the Commission adopted the EU Roadmap to fight Drug Trafficking and Organised Crime which included the European Ports Alliance as a flagship initiative, bringing together all relevant public and private actors in the fight against drugs smuggling and criminal infiltration of logistic hubs.