Last year, Belgian customs intercepted just under 110 tonnes of cocaine in the Port of Antwerp, a new record, as it marks the first time the 100-tonne mark has been passed.
The amount of cocaine seized at the Port of Antwerp has risen since 2013. In 2021, customs discovered "just" 89.5 tonnes, but last year, the figure reached a new record high, as nearly 110 tonnes of cocaine were seized at the port of Antwerp, Belgian customs announced.
The port, together with the Dutch equivalent in Rotterdam, is preferred by international drug trafficking and related criminal organisations due to its central location in north-western Europe, as well as its long tradition with transport lines from South America, competent minister Vincent Van Peteghem explained.
"For international drug criminals, Antwerp and Rotterdam are two gateways to mainland Europe," he noted during the press conference. However, in Rotterdam, the quantity of cocaine seized did decrease: from 70 tonnes in 2021 to around 50 tonnes in 2022.
Joint efforts paying off
Van Peteghem, together with Dutch State Secretary for Customs and Excise Aukje de Vries, presented the figures as proof that close cooperation between the two countries — characterised by regular exchanges of strategic decisions and training as well as information exchange — is paying off.
"Exchange of information and expertise is the beating heart of our cooperation. The new results show that together we can make a fist against international drug trafficking and its impact on our security, our economy and our society," Van Peteghem noted. "Any suspicious movement spotted in Rotterdam or any new form of concealment technology discovered in Antwerp can lead to progress for both ports."
De Vries stressed that the consequences of criminal drug trafficking extend far beyond the ports, as criminals are becoming "increasingly ruthless," resulting in public shootings and murders in both countries.
As both ports continue to be key entrance points for international criminals and gangs are becoming more and more sophisticated, both parties will strengthen their own expertise to fight against international drug trafficking.
Belgian customs will invest in 108 new forces in the port of Antwerp, the purchase of new scanning equipment and the further roll-out of the "100% risk scanning" project, while the Netherlands will focus its efforts on developing artificial intelligence technologies, chemical detection, container tracking and the creation of technical barriers.
Both countries' customs services will "continue to cooperate strongly in the coming years," which will include joint operational actions being set up on the ground.