Cocaine continues to flow into the port of Antwerp

Cocaine continues to flow into the port of Antwerp
Credit: Belga

Drugs – in particular cocaine from South America – continue to flow into the port area of ​​Antwerp, according to figures for the first half of 2023 released by the Belgian customs department. During this period, 43.43 tonnes of cocaine were intercepted in Belgium.

Customs reports a 21% increase in the seizure of cocaine compared to the first half of 2022. Although the amount seized in 2021 was higher, this is explained by an exceptional amount of seizures made that year as a result of the European Sky ECC sting.

In addition to seizures, the production of cocaine also continues to increase – predominantly in Colombia and Bolivia. Most of the drugs coming from South America and destined for Antwerp come from Ecuador and Panama.

On Wednesday, customs signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the FPS Finances, the port of Antwerp-Bruges and several large container terminals. The objective of this agreement is to carry out the ongoing project of "100% scanning of high-risk containers".

“We continue to invest in equipment and personnel,” Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem said on Wednesday. "It is essential that port terminals operate safely."

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Last year, a record of nearly 110 tons of cocaine were seized at the port of Antwerp. This is the first time that the symbolic threshold of 100 tonnes has been crossed. Since 2013, this figure has steadily increased.

The five new drug-detecting scanners announced at the start of the year will be operational by the end of 2023, Customs stated on Wednesday. Belgian authorities are also working alongside counterparts in the Netherlands and Brazil on algorithms and artificial intelligence to optimise container control.

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