About 22 percent of all cargo ships worldwide sail under the Panamanian flag, making Panama the largest flag state in the world. Many cargo ships departing from source countries for international drug trafficking, such as Colombia, with the ports of Antwerp or Zeebrugge as their destination, also sail under the Panamanian flag. This makes these ships and the personnel working on them particularly vulnerable to infiltration by organized crime and drug smuggling. It is therefore “very important that we make agreements with the Panamanian authorities to tackle this problem together”, Van Quickenborne explains the agreement.
Among other things, Belgium and Panama will exchange more information about suspicious acts on and around ships, dubious cargoes and high-risk containers. Both countries will also keep each other informed when discovering new smuggling methods. According to Van Quickenborne, 200,000 euros have been set aside for the start-up of a pilot project to exchange information in a structured way.
In addition, training will be provided for seafarers to better learn to recognize and report suspicious actions and cargoes. Belgium and Panama are also committed to making the procedures for reporting suspicious activities and cargoes simpler and more accessible. Shipping companies from both countries are also urged to implement a strict integrity policy and it has been agreed to recognize each other’s training courses for seafarers and the resulting certificates of competency.