The Netherlands and Belgium sign a pact with shipping companies against drug smuggling | News item

News item | 17-02-2023 | 19:00

The Netherlands, Belgium and five major international shipping companies are joining forces in the fight against organized crime in the seaports of Rotterdam and Antwerp. They agreed on this today during the conference ‘Working together on a safe and ethical port’ in Antwerp. Efforts are made to use smartly equipped containers so that an alarm is sounded if they are tampered with, screening of employees, mutual information exchange and working towards further international security standards in the fight against criminal practices and drug smuggling worldwide.

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Image: ©Ministry of Justice and Security / Rutger Rog

The joint ‘Declaration on the fight against cross-border organized drug crime’ has been signed by the Dutch ministers Yeşilgöz-Zegerius (Justice and Security), Harbers (Infrastructure and Water Management) and State Secretary De Vries (Executions and Customs), the Belgian Prime Minister De Croo , Deputy Prime Ministers Van Peteghem (Finance), Van Quickenborne (Justice and North Sea) and Minister Verlinden (Interior Affairs), the Mayors Aboutaleb of Rotterdam and De Wever of Antwerp, and executives of the five major shipping companies MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag Lloyd and Seatrade.

Minister Yesilgöz-Zegerius:

“Criminal power structures have become multinationals that operate internationally. To dismantle it, we are working with Belgium and the major shipping companies to set a global standard in tackling organized crime. Hiding drugs in sea containers, other types of cargo or on ships is a dominant method of smuggling. Meanwhile, ruthless violence and corruption pose a major threat to our society and economy. The government and the business community can only counteract this effectively together. So we have a joint responsibility to stop large-scale drug smuggling with all its violence and intimidation.”

Minister Harbers:

“The ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp are economic lifelines not only of the Netherlands and Belgium, but also of Europe. And what makes the ports attractive to companies and countries worldwide also makes the port attractive to drug criminals. I am pleased that major shipowners have also joined this initiative. With the use of smart technology such as smart seals, we can tackle the core of this problem.”

State Secretary De Vries:

“The record catches in the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam show how gigantic the problem of drug smuggling is in both countries. That is why we stand shoulder to shoulder in tackling this subversive drug crime. Dutch and Belgian customs are already working together to South America, among other things, to get scan images that are made there. Shipping companies also have a lot of information about countries where many drugs come from. Their ships, of course, call in numerous ports. That is why we are going to exchange more information so that the customs services can check even more specifically and we increase the chance of being caught.”