Port of Antwerp addresses mayor’s drug smuggling concerns

Port of Antwerp addresses mayor’s drug smuggling concerns
Antwerp is the second largest container port in Europe

The Port of Antwerp has urged for collective action in response to the city mayor’s claim that cocaine travelling through the port will corrupt politics.

Bart DeWever told local newspaper de Volkskrant that the city’s cash flow from drug smuggling is enormous and warned the influence of the money is not limited to certain districts.

De Weaver said: “This is going to permeate politics. I dare say in Antwerp we are on the verge of people buying political influence.”

De Wever suggested many services and governments join forces and work together to tackle the problem and at least make it difficult for the criminals.

Nathalie Van Impe, chief communication and marketing officer at the Port of Antwerp, agreed that a collaborative effort between different police services, labour inspection, port authorities and terminal operators is needed to tackle the problem.

Van Impe told CM: “We don’t have any police powers but we do believe that this is a problem that the whole port community wants to tackle and it is engaged or committed to doing whatever they can.”

Antwerp has installed around 70 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras that have been operational since May but the port does not have the authority to access the information it has gathered and instead it is handed to the police.

The port is aware drug smuggling is a problem but Van Impe said it is not a police department and it is not its role to investigate.

The EU drugs agency estimated that almost half of Europe’s cocaine supply goes through Belgium and De Wever claimed Antwerp was “as leaky as a colander.”

Police services in Antwerp state 80% of the cocaine that lands at the port goes directly to the Netherlands where it is cut before being distributed locally and internationally.

Last year, the Antwerp police seized 40,000 kilos which is ten times more than the 4,000 kilos seized in 2013.  In Rotterdam only 5,000 kilos were seized in 2017.

Antwerp handled 10.5bn teu last year and is one of the most extensive ports in the world. “The cocaine is looking for the least resistance. Antwerp,” De Wever said.