Ecuador and Panama: Container Control Programme leads to seizures
22 December 2009 - The Container Control Programme, a joint initiative of UNODC and the World Customs Organization, continues to show success as participating port authorities seize more drug consignments and counterfeit goods along container routes.
In Panama, the newly established and trained inter-agency container profiling unit in Balboa made their first seizures of containers carrying illicit goods. In only three weeks, the unit, which started operations in November, seized four containers from China, destined for Chile and Venezuela. Inter-agency officials decided to inspect the respective containers because the declared goods were not consistent with the activity of the exporters. Large consignments of counterfeit T-shirts, fake branded shoes and towels were seized.
In October, container monitoring officials in Guayaquil, Ecuador, seized 25kg of cocaine (worth US$ 1.7million in Belgium at the retail level) from a container filled with bananas. Tracking details showed that the container was on its way back to Guayaquil because it had been rejected in the port of Antwerp in Belgium. Further investigations showed that several other containers had been similarly rejected in Antwerp, and three additional ones were found with a total of 75 kg of cocaine (worth over US$ 5 million in Belgium at the retail level) hidden in the refrigeration section of the containers.
In September, three containers were seized with various amounts of cocaine. The containers originated from the small town of El Carmen in Ecuador. As a result of these seizures, the Ecuadorian shipping line ordered inspections of all containers originating from El Carmen, which is allegedly harbouring Colombian drug traffickers.
The Container Control Programme was launched in 2003 to improve container security. While most containers carry legal goods, some are being used to smuggle drugs, weapons and even people. The Programme assists port authorities in establishing profiling systems and in using modern control techniques to detect illegal goods in containers without causing disruptions in the commerce of legal goods.
Exchange of information by officials in participating ports have led to seizures, for example in Antwerp, Belgium, and Hamburg, Germany, where cocaine busts have taken place. It is expected that these seizures will increase thanks to the innovative ContainerComm intelligence system. This system, developed by the World Customs Organization, facilitates communication between ports and provides vital information that can be used for risk assessments and container profiling.
The following countries are currently participating in the programme: Ecuador, Ghana, Pakistan, Panama, Senegal and Turkmenistan.