Activities of organized crime syndicates are now growing at an alarming rate as they now target commercial vessels to facilitate the global trafficking of illegal drugs. A recent report released by Dryad Global, a maritime security firm, titled: ‘Counter Narcotics Drug Smuggling in Commercial Shipping,’ found that Nigeria and 21 other countries are regions with elevated risks for the operations of the crime syndicates, making vessels operating out of the countries more vulnerable to narcotics smuggling.
In a coordinated operation involving customs, police, and other agencies from 58 nations around the world, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Customs Organisation (WCO) cracked down on organized crime and suspected insiders abusing the container supply chain. 158 narcotics seizures, including 98,734 kilograms of cocaine and 314 kilograms of cannabis herbals, were recovered during the operation carried out in November–December 2022. The agencies said organized crime organizations use legitimate shipments to move drugs worldwide.
NCS recently wiped out 96 containers containing illegal.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) reported seizing about 100 million tramadol pills in 22 months in December 2018. It also seized nearly 5.5 million kilograms of illegal drugs. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) recently wiped out 96 containers containing illegal and stale drugs that had entered the country through its seaports and land borders. As the global demand for drugs rises, the commercial shipping industry has been plagued by drug smuggling operations.
Dryad Global reports stated that manufacturers of illegal drugs are increasingly employing stylish trafficking strategies, such as using commercial ships and their crews as a means of moving their product through a series of intermediate ports. Vessels can be targeted in areas of Africa, Europe, North America, and Asia that are not necessarily connected to the production of drugs due to the globalized nature of drug smuggling activities. In most countries, drugs are smuggled by being hidden amongst legal goods being transported, with the help of crew and port workers.
Partial limitations on external persons’ aboard the vessel is suggested.
According to the report, cargo containers are marked as checked with counterfeit official seals while drug traffickers pose as port officials and stevedores to carry them on board. They hide the drugs in the ship’s engine rooms, a secure area that is rarely inspected. The security firm recommended keeping detailed logs on all port officials, health care workers, law enforcement officers, stevedores, and the areas they visited before docking. The company suggested making plans for vessel searches before departing port and reviewing them before embarking and after cargo activities had been completed.
Furthermore, Dryad Global emphasized the importance of limiting access to the vessel to only those who are absolutely necessary, as well as requiring all crew members to be on high alert and use extreme caution whenever the ship is in port. The company also recommended enforcing partial limitations on external persons’ movement aboard the vessel and prohibiting access to the ship’s engine rooms, holds, stores, and other vulnerable places. All outsiders must register their information and documents in a pre-arranged log book at the sole point of entry/exit, which is checked by the crew before boarding, it added.
Underwater inspections of the ship’s hull and rudder should be done.
A crew member or watchman should be on duty whenever passengers or stevedores are on board to keep an eye on the goings-on and report anything out of the ordinary to the captain. Especially late at night and in the dark, watchmen need to keep an eye out for any vessels, large or small, that may be approaching the docked ship. Ultimately, it suggested underwater inspections of the ship’s hull and rudder, two common points of entry for contraband, would reveal any such alterations.