On 10 September 2019, officers from Brazil Customs’ Port Control Unit (PCU) in the Port of Santos profiled outbound container shipments to Europe and made a massive cocaine seizure. Based on indicators developed using risk analysis techniques and X-ray technology, a container filled with bags of granulated sugar was selected for check.
Forty-nine bags from this sugar consignment showed traces of cocaine, leading to a seizure totalling 1,482 kg (1.482 ton) of the drug. The container was bound for Antwerp, Belgium.
The WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, noted that the PCU in Santos, which was established under the UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme (CCP), is one of the most effective out of over 100 PCUs worldwide.
The sheer volume of international maritime container traffic, with approximately 750 million containers shipped annually in the trade supply chain, coupled with the sophisticated and often ingenious concealment methods and complex routings adopted by illicit drug traffickers and other smugglers, invariably makes successful interdiction difficult.
Seaports are notoriously difficult – and at times dangerous – places to work. Law enforcement structures are often hampered by a lack of resources, inter-agency mistrust, complex port processes and systems, and other factors which are purposefully exploited by criminal organizations.
This situation poses a very real and serious threat to the security of the international trade supply chain, which is so important to sustainable development.
In response to this threat, the UNODC and WCO launched the CCP to assist Governments in establishing effective container selections and controls to prevent drug trafficking and other illicit cross-border activities.
At the heart of this innovative approach is the creation of inter-agency PCUs. They consist of risk analysts and physical inspection teams from different law enforcement agencies who are trained and equipped in the framework of the CCP.
They work together to systematically target high-risk containers for scrutiny, using risk analysis and other proactive techniques with minimum disruption to the free flow of legitimate trade.