MAOC-N Nets Drugs on the High Seas

Efforts to prevent illicit maritime trafficking to European markets provide the best examples of international cooperation. One such effort began in 2007, when Spain, Portugal, Ireland, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom united to create the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre-Narcotics, or MAOC-N. The center counts on the support of international observers that cooperate to confront this emerging threat. Other organizations are also included, such as the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the European Commission, Europol and the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force–South.
WRITER-ID | 1 January 2011

Efforts to prevent illicit maritime trafficking to European markets provide the best examples of international cooperation. One such effort began in 2007, when Spain, Portugal, Ireland, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom united to create the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre-Narcotics, or MAOC-N. The center counts on the support of international observers that cooperate to confront this emerging threat. Other organizations are also included, such as the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the European Commission, Europol and the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force–South.

The main reason for the establishment of MAOC–N is to “try to intercept shipments of drugs before they arrive in Europe, or when possible, West Africa,” MAOC–N Director José Ferreira Leite told Diálogo. To accomplish its goals, MAOC–N enhances criminal intelligence and coordinates police action with naval and law enforcement agencies.

In an interview from Lisbon, Ferreira said the MAOC–N innovative working model, developed by seizing bulk loads of cocaine, is “more damaging to the organized crime groups in terms of cost as they ultimately lose their product in the transport process at its purest point.”

During its first two years of existence, MAOC–N coordinated the seizure or caused the jettisoning of about 45 tons of cocaine, Ferreira said.

The success of such coastal surveillance is recognized by Peter Burgess, a counternarcotics expert at the U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany, which tracks interdiction efforts against ships and aircraft attempting to transport drugs to the African continent. “No one country can address this problem on their own; it has to be a cooperative effort,” Burgess told Diálogo.

The Lisbon-based counternarcotics surveillance headquarters has helped put pressure on trans-Atlantic drug shipments from the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa to the Norwegian Sea. The multilateral institution also works with tips shared from other locations along the African coast, including bases in Spain’s Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands, where a multinational team works closely with its African counterparts. “The collaborative efforts with Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, France and others [have] increased detection and monitoring of vessels on the Atlantic,” Burgess said.

Looking to Latin American countries and the possibility of working together, Ferreira said they are “completely open to any state, from South or Central America or from West Africa, wanting to start conversations and exchange letters about the possibility of becoming an observer.” So far, the center has already begun conversations with Brazil and Colombia regarding the best ways to share pertinent information.

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