The briefing on illegal drugs in shipping

The news, views and numbers you need to know this month

News in numbers


Countries participated in ‘Sports Bag 2’ – a two week drug enforcement crackdown at ports in September 2018


Twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) transported by sea every year


People in the US who died from a drug overdose in 2017


The street of value of 16.5 tonnes of cocaine seized from a ship docking at Philadelphia, US, in June

7 Dec 2006

The date of the IMO’s last update to guidelines on the prevention and suppression of drug smuggling

140 tonnes

The record-breaking weight of cocaine seized by the authorities in Europe in 2017

In quotes

A tweet from US Attorney William M. McSwain after US port authorities in Philadelphia seized 16.5 tonnes of cocaine this June:

This is one of the largest drug seizures in United States history. This amount of cocaine could kill millions – MILLIONS – of people. My Office is committed to keeping our borders secure and streets safe from deadly narcotics.

Dr Mark Piper, toxicology services manager at Randox Testing Services (RTS):

At sea or on waterways, alcohol and drugs are potentially even more dangerous than on land because of the changing environment. The motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray can emphasise the effects of taking drugs or alcohol. This leads to a decrease in awareness and hazard perception thereby increasing the potential for a safety-related incident.

Carri Woodburn, loss prevention manager at leading maritime insurance organisation The Shipowners’ Club:

Crew often spend long periods of time away from their family which may have an effect on their morale, and in some instances, people turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of escape where they may experience mental health un-wellness such as depression.

Electrification – maybe that’s a black swan. Maybe by 2050 we will have found a way to include decarbonized electricity within the maritime sector. That would be transformational.

Top stories

Federal authorities seized 15,000 kilos of cocaine, worth as much as $750 million, at a Philadelphia shipping port, law enforcement sources told NBC News on Tuesday (18 June). The 33,000 pounds of the drug was found in seven shipping containers. Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia said it is the largest drug seizure ever in their area.

Source: NBC News

Following a second large drug bust aboard its box-ships this year, international ocean container shipping line Mediterranean Shipping Company has had its Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) certificate suspended by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. The agency acted after two of MSC’s ships this year were found to have large volumes of illegal drugs smuggled aboard them.

Source: Freight Waves

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is taking proactive measures in preventing the use of private airstrips and ports as entry and exit points of illegal drugs. According to PDEA Director General Aaron N. Aquino, unmanned runways and private ports have become favourite landing spots for private airplanes, seaplanes and even yachts, loaded with bulk of illegal drugs.

Source: Phillipine News Agency

Drug gangs have infiltrated a Panama port through employees who smuggle cocaine into cargo containers destined for Europe — a trafficking scheme that shows how Panama’s shipping industry is used to move large quantities of drugs across the Atlantic.

Source: Insight Crime

The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says it has collaborated with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in seizing a record amount of cocaine from a container ship with merchandise destined for Haiti. CBP said that the contents of the shipping containers included wine, coated paperboard, vegetable extracts and dried nuts from Chile, carbon black from Colombia, and scrap metal batteries from the United Arab Emirates.

Source: The Haitian Times

Italian and Spanish law enforcement officers have seized 12 tons of hashish from a merchant ship in the Mediterranean Sea off the shores of Algeria upon intelligence provided by Turkish police, Turkey's Interior Ministry said in a statement. The anti-narcotics branch of Turkey's Security General Directorate provided information to their Italian and Spanish counterparts about a ship carrying a large amount of drugs from North Africa to the eastern Mediterranean.

Source: Daily Sabah