The seizure of cocaine and other illicit substances hidden in containers, ready to be shipped from air, sea, and land terminals, increased in 2020 and reached a total of 106 tons, 29 more than in 2019, according to a March 1, 2021 report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The UNODC’s Global Container Control Programme in Latin America and the Caribbean reports that authorities seized 104.9 tons of drugs in 242 procedures in Latin America, 30.1 more than in 2019. The main seizures took place in ports of Colombia (33 tons), Ecuador (24 tons), Brazil (20 tons), and Panama (11 tons).
Most recently, on March 23, the Dominican Republic National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD, in Spanish) reported the seizure of 265 kilograms of cocaine that were hidden in containers bound for Europe.
“These ports are the entry gates and transshipment centers to the global illicit drug market in North America, Europe, Africa, and Oceania,” Nicholas Cole, regional coordinator for the UNODC Global Container Control Programme in Central America and the Caribbean, told Diálogo.
These ports are the entry gates and transshipment centers to the global illicit drug market in North America, Europe, Africa, and Oceania,” Nicholas Cole, regional coordinator for the UNODC Global Container Control Programme in Central America and the Caribbean.
The largest seizure occurred in June 2020, during a coordinated operation between Colombia and the United States, where agents seized 7.5 tons of cocaine in international waters. Authorities found the drug mixed with a product used for construction, on a vessel that had set off from Colombia to Panama, the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported.
According to the UNODC, the cocaine-producing countries are Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, in descending order of volume. The excess supply in these nations has led to the shipment of larger drug quantities, and COVID-19 restrictions have limited alternative trafficking methods available to transnational criminal groups, thus increasing seizures.
In addition to this limitation, criminals face the multidisciplinary effort for continuous port surveillance, strengthened institutional cooperation, constant training, the analysis of new routes and modus operandi, the trends developed during the pandemic, and regional information exchange using the ContainerComm software.
This digital tool facilitates the encrypted exchange of confidential information, including verification of container numbers and generation of alerts for possible high-risk containers, the UNODC explains.
The 2020 report also says that the Latin American region grew to include 317 ContainerComm users, who have received 196,392 notifications. There were also 242 illicit drug seizures reported, reaching an unprecedented total of 104,905 kg of cocaine seized in 2020.
Currently, the UNODC’s Global Container Control Programme operates in 18 countries, with 35 joint control units in seaports, one in a dry port, and two units in airports.