Supply chain operators must step up efforts to prevent the exponential growth of the flow of illegal drugs into Europe via its Atlantic seaboard.

Insurance mutual TT Club noted a significant spike in criminal activity across European ports since April, including smuggling cocaine using reefer containers carrying fruit into Belgium and the Netherlands, and €1.5m worth of ecstasy found in a truck at Calais.

MD of loss prevention Mike Yarwood said: “These are just fragments of the evidence we have of the crucial role ports play in the drug trade across Western Europe. 110 tons of cocaine were seized at Antwerp last year and much has been reported of how the city has become the European hub for drug imports.

“But the network of channels for the trade is widespread, and few ports along the seaboard can turn a blind eye to it.”

According to Mr Yarwood, organised crime gangs have links with both Brazil and Portugal, with groups reportedly operating in Lisbon and Porto.

Of particular concern for the supply chain sector is the ease with which these gangs can bribe port employees and those in the transport industry, explaioned European Shippers Council (ESC) secretary general Godfried Smit.

“Undermining was a problem at ports and airports, but is now spreading to other supply chain partners, such as importers established in the hinterland. For the ESC, it is essential to raise awareness of these important of trends in criminal activities.”

Often, trucks will be loaded with contraband without the driver’s knowledge, and are hijacked after having cleared the port.

Those ports that have seen incidents spike in recent months have upped their efforts to stop the flow of narcotics, Antwerp having added 70 security staff and Rotterdam has increased CCTV and drone use.

For its part, TT Club has announced it would “deploy significant resources” in recording and reporting this activity. Mr Yarwood said: “We are dealing with global crime syndicates and efforts to combat their activities will be akin to squeezing a half-inflated balloon. We may constrict them in one or two ports, but they will find ways to exploit others.

“We urge all in our industry to be aware of drug importation and to take all the steps they can to restrict this illicit trade.”

Mr Smit added that there needed to be greater focus on ensuring the safety of employees at risk from criminal enterprise.

“It is important that they know how to act and to whom they should report [criminal approaches], and we need to pay attention to any signals that they may have been approached or recruited by these gangs.”

Source : The Loadstar