Container Control Programme celebrates 15 years of making global trade safer from crime

The Container Control Programme (CCP), which counters the cross-border movement of illicit goods and is jointly implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Customs Organization (WCO), celebrates its 15th anniversary in October.

Every year, more than 750 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) are recorded in the global containerized trade supply chain, accounting for around 90 per cent of the world’s cargo.

The vast majority of containers carry licit goods; however, some are used to smuggle drugs, weapons, and other illicit goods.

Since its inception in 2004, CCP units across the globe have seized a wide range of prohibited goods, including

  • over 300 metric tons of cocaine,
  • over 71 metric tons of cannabis,
  • around 6,500 kg of heroin,
  • over 1600 kg of psychotropic and new psychotropic substances,
  • and over 1720 metric tons of precursors for drugs and explosives.

These units also seized over 170 shipments relating to fisheries, forest, wildlife and other environmental crime and more than 100 strategic trade and dual-use shipments.

Speaking about the Programme’s achievements, Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director of UNODC’s Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, said: “The CCP’s capacity to adapt to emerging security challenges is a key reason for its continuous success and relevance fifteen years after its creation.”

Expanding the network against illicit trafficking

What began as a modest project, established in four seaports and primarily focused on drug trafficking, became a far-reaching programme on a global scale.

As of today, the CCP has established more than 100 operational inter-agency Units in over 50 countries and has expanded its focus to include airports, dry ports, land border crossings and rail terminals.

Responding to constantly evolving crime threats, the Programme has expanded into new thematic areas, including

  • environmental crime,
  • trafficking in cultural property,
  • dual use and strategic goods,
  • chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials,
  • weapons and their means of delivery, firearms and more advanced weapon systems,
  • chemical precursors to drugs and explosives,
  • as well as the exploitation of the air cargo supply chain.

In addition, it supports fair revenue collection by the detection of a large number of non- or falsely declared commercial goods, such as cigarettes.

The CCP facilitates cooperation among national law enforcement authorities and private sector entities such as port operators and shipping lines.

CCP units are trained to identify high-risk containers using a combination of up-to-date profiling techniques, human intelligence and traditional hands-on methods.

In 2019 the Programme won the prestigious Bureau International des Containers (BIC) Award 2018.

Corruption still a serious problem in Asia

Many countries see economic openness as a way forward, however, governments across the region continue to restrict participation in public affairs, silence dissenting voices and keep decision-making out of public scrutiny.

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