The European Union is to form a new port alliance as part of its new “road map” designed to step up the fight against drug trafficking and criminal networks.

“The drug trade is one of the most significant security threats faced by the EU today,” the European Commission said in a statement.

Seizures of cocaine in the EU are hitting record levels, with 303 tonnes confiscated in 2021 alone.

“The activities of criminal networks have evolved in their scale, sophistication and violent consequences,” the commission added.

The road map contains four priorities for medium to long-term measures.

The first of these concerns terminals.

A new European Ports Alliance will be formed to increase the resilience of ports against criminal infiltration by reinforcing the work of customs authorities, law enforcement, and public and private actors in ports across the EU, the document stated.

For example, terminals will be helped to use state-of-the-art scanning and equipment.

The commission also wants to dismantle high-risk criminal networks through financial and digital investigations, as well as cooperation between specialised prosecutors and judges.

The EU wants to work with international partners to confront the global threat, swapping information and launching joint operations on major drug trafficking routes.

The commission is urging the European Parliament and the council to adopt the measures.

Cats fighting bears

Last month, TradeWinds reported from meetings of the World Shipping Council and the European Community Association of Ship Brokers and Agents on the sidelines of the European Shipping Summit in Brussels.

“When I first started in this job, I had the romantic idea that we were cats chasing mice,” a senior European customs official told the audience. “Now I know that we are no longer chasing mice — we are fighting bears.”

Drug flows have reached levels unseen in two decades. Even small European terminals report seizures of up to five tonnes.

The customs official said: “You see a tsunami of cocaine”.