The EU Ports Alliance: CoESS joins initiative to fight drug trafficking and organised crime

On Wednesday 24th January, the Chairman of the CoESS Committee on Maritime and Port Security, Johan Ohlsson and CoESS’ Director General Catherine Piana, joined the launch event of the European Ports Alliance, held in the iconic building of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges. This initiative by DG HOME and the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU seeks to address the organised crime and drug trafficking by taking a public-private partnership approach, including private security services. It is a follow-up to the  EU Roadmap to fight Drug Trafficking and Organised Crime.

"It takes a network to fight a network" is the motto that Commissioner Ylva Johansson launched in her opening speech, and taken over by several of the illustrious speakers of the event, including Mrs Annelies Verlinden, Belgian Minister of Interior.

The first panel of the Conference, featuring Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol, Ine Van Wymersch, Belgian Drugs Commissioner and Tomasz Braun, Head of Strategy and Development from the Oort of GdaƄsk Authority set up the problem: unprecedented volumes of drugs have been seized, criminal networks are increasingly complex yet flexible, and are using insiders through corruption to infiltrate the digital networks.

There are some avenues for solutions: the use of technology to detect activities, a strong culture that encourages reporting of concerning behaviours, think like the criminals to defeat them, for example by seeking to identify the people who are most vulnerable to corruption and use existing cases to develop countermeasures.

Above all, Public-Private Partnerships are needed, among others to exchange tactical and strategic information. Multi-disciplinary teams are also required to fight drug trafficking and criminality, as there are many different dimensions to the issue: financial (follow the money), chemistry (follow the precursors), and criminology.

In the course of time, the Ports Alliance will need to measure its own efficacy, and KPIs will need to be defined to this end, such as the number of reports received and the outcome of the ensuing enquiries.

The link to ports that are further inland was also mentioned, which is an issue that the CoESS Maritime and Ports Security Committee finds crucial: while the ISPS code is limited to Maritime Ports, equivalent security measures should be implemented to maintain a secure supply chain.

One of the challenges that CoESS is also keen to discuss is the difficulty to exchange information in order to make the partnership stronger and more resilient. In her conclusion of the launch event, the Belgian Minister of Interior, Annelies Verlinden highlighted the need to bridge the gap between the public and private sector.

CoESS is very proud to support be part of this initiative and will be working actively and make concrete proposals to improve the ports protection and resilience. More information on the initiative can be found at this European Commission website.