Belgian customs seized another record amount of cocaine in the port of Antwerp in 2023, with 116 tonnes.

Five tonnes of cocaine were also seized at the port of Zeebrugge, part of Port of Antwerp-Bruges.

This was announced on Wednesday by Belgian finance minister Vincent Van Peteghem, at the port of Flushing in the Netherlands, together with his Dutch colleague state secretary Aukje De Vries.

Vincent Van Peteghem said that thousands of employees, spread all over the country, gave their best in once again extraordinary circumstances last year.

“And while this may officially be the last presentation of annual figures of this legislature, it remains my goal to continue on the path we have taken. We have increased investment in people and resources in recent years for the first time in a long time and we will continue to do so.”

The annual figure of 116 tonnes is again an increase compared to the previous year (110 tonnes).

Dutch and Belgian Customs are collaborating intensively in their battle against drug trafficking. The Dutch Customs diving team is active in Antwerp and the two countries are jointly collaborating with Latin America.

The customs officers of the Netherlands seized more than 140 consignments of cocaine last year, which is roughly the same as the year before.

Customs also found the largest ever consignment of cocaine. This was a consignment of 8,000 kg of cocaine, shipped from Ecuador to Rotterdam via Panama. The most frequent location where drugs were found was the cooling system of containers. Customs officers also regularly discovered drugs in the cargo or concealed in the structure of the container.

In Rotterdam, customs have begun to scan more containers.

Scans have increased by 40% compared to 2022. In the ports, Customs are constantly innovating to stay a step ahead of criminals, partly through the deployment of underwater robots, smart cameras and drones.

Aukje de Vries, state secretary for benefits and customs, said: “The drug traffickers will stop at nothing and will use every means available.”