Last week, 150 kilograms of cocaine, with a street value of about €7 million, were found in the port of Ghent hidden in a sea chest of a ship from Brazil.
The crew of the Brazilian vessel that was moored in Ghent port noticed divers around the vessel on 20 December. The Shipping Police immediately went to the spot but could not find them. The Federal Judicial Police (FGP) East Flanders immediately opened an investigation, report local media.
In the ship’s sea chest – an underwater opening through which seawater is pumped to fill ballast tanks or to cool the engine room – Belgian Customs found three large bags with a total of about 150 kilograms of cocaine.
This was not the first catch of its kind, as another 216 kilograms of cocaine were also found in the port of Ghent in June of this year. It had a street value of over €10 million and was also hidden in a sea chest.
“Criminal organisations try to smuggle cocaine in via Ghent port in different ways: hidden under the waterline, in bulk cargo, in containers, via the crew,” chief commissioner Patrick Willocx of FGP East Flanders told TV Oost.
“The East Flanders Federal Judicial Police, the Ghent Shipping Police and Customs continue to join forces to make Ghent port safer and to stop the import of drugs,” he added.
He stressed that the drug problem in the port of Antwerp is “many times bigger” than in Ghent, but that the police still fear a shift and a growth in the port of Ghent.
“The catches are more regular and we fear that criminal organisations will use Ghent port more and more for drug import to Europe.”
For Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem, Customs is a crucial link in the security chain against drug criminals.
“Drug trafficking disrupts our society, economy and businesses in our seaports. Our Customs is therefore a crucial link in the security chain against these drug criminals,” he told Het Nieuwsblad.
“As a minister, I will continue to support Customs in the coming years so that the police and the public prosecutor’s office can continue to count on a strong and reliable partner, also in the port of Ghent.”