BRUSSELS, 5th April, 2023 (WAM) -- Europol has launched a joint analysis report with the Security Steering Committee of the ports of Antwerp, Hamburg/Bremerhaven and Rotterdam that looks into the risk and challenges for law enforcement posed by criminal networks in EU ports.
The EU's critical infrastructure - notably highways, railways and ports - enable the EU way of life, where free movement of goods and people is a foundational and major factor for economic growth, personal freedom and prosperity. Criminal networks however, driven by the constant desire of growing profits and expansion of their illegal activities, are increasingly working toward the infiltration of and control over major logistical points. EU ports are examples of such major hubs, which is why the Security Steering Committee of the ports of Antwerp, Hamburg/Bremerhaven and Rotterdam, together with Europol, agreed to draft a joint analysis report assessing the threat of infiltration of port infrastructure by organised crime in the EU.
Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs, said, "The Europol report on criminal networks in ports illustrates what we are up against. It lays bare the sophistication of criminal drug gangs, their strength, and their savagery. The drug traffickers promote corrupt actions and practices sometimes by bribery, sometimes by intimidation. We are working with authorities at all levels to strengthen systems in the fight against the criminal activity this report outlines."
Europol's Executive Director Catherine De Bolle added, "Criminal networks work closely to evade security at land borders and at air and maritime ports. They have one thing in mind - profit. An effective response is closer collaboration between the public and private sector; this will make both sides stronger. This report, the first ever created in cooperation with the ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam, Hamburg/Bremerhaven, is part of building this common front. This information exchange has led to deeper knowledge, which is the most effective weapon against organised crime."
Maritime ports in the EU handle some 90 million containers each year, but authorities are able to inspect only between 2 percent and 10 percent of them. This logistical hurdle represents a challenge for law enforcement and an opportunity for criminal networks needing to access logistical hubs to facilitate their criminal activities. Such criminal networks have therefore infiltrated ports in all continents.
In order to focus their efforts and minimise the risks of losing merchandise, organised criminals are seeking new modus operandi that require the corruption of far fewer individuals. Europol's analysis report on criminal networks in EU ports looks into one specific technique, which exploits misappropriated container reference codes. This requires the corruption of just one individual, along with either the corruption or a Trojan horse style infiltration of extraction teams, who are then paid between 7 and 15 percent of the value of the illegal shipment.