Bangladesh: Profiling containers at Chittagong port: preventing the smuggling of drugs and other illicit goods

Earlier in 2015, UNODC and the World Customs Organization initiated the implementation of their joint Container Control Programme (CCP) in Bangladesh. The program is being implemented at Chittagong Port which serves as the gateway to Bangladesh, handling nearly 14.5 million tons of cargo annually. The main exports from the country include garments, agricultural products and jute, while key imports include machinery, chemicals, iron and steel. 

Bangladesh, along with other countries in the region is vulnerable to various threats of transnational organized crime. Some of these specific to Bangladesh include: trafficking of heroin and yaba tablets, transshipment of precursor chemicals for production and refinement of heroin and synthetic drugs and also increasingly, transshipment of smuggled wildlife destined to other parts of Asia. 

The Container Control Programme's role is to assist governments in developing sustainable law enforcement structures at seaports, in order to minimize the risk of maritime containers being exploited for illicit drug trafficking and other forms of black market activity, which in turn helps to facilitate legitimate trade.

At the heart of the CCP is the Port Control Unit (PCU), comprising analysts and search teams from different law enforcement agencies which can include customs, police, drug law enforcement etc. They are trained and equipped to systematically target suspect and high risk containers for further law enforcement scrutiny, with minimum disruption to the free flow of legitimate trade.

The PCU at Chittagong was established in 2015 and the first basic training for the PCU staff commenced shortly afterwards. Following a successful basic training, an intensive practical training was organized in May 2015. The nine-day long training saw participants interacting with international experts, as well as members from the neighboring PCU in the Maldives. The training included profiling, risk analysis of containers, challenges faced at entry, transit and export operations, search operations and practical experience with profiling and risk analysis systems given by the WCO training teams.

At present the PCU in Bangladesh consists of seven officers from the customs. The Chittagong PCU is the third PCU in South Asia, with the Maldives (Male) and Sri Lanka (Colombo) housing one unit each at present. 

The Container Control Programme in South Asia is possible thanks to the financial contribution of the United States of America.  

Click here to know more about the Container Control Programme