As the global economy becomes increasingly interconnected, opportunities for trade have spread around the world. Shipping lanes are the superhighways of international commerce; more than 750 million twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) movements are recorded, accounting for 90 percent of the global cargo trade. However, this presents opportunities not only for governments and legitimate businesses but also for terrorists and transnational organized crime groups to transport anything from legal goods used for money laundering, to prohibited drugs and even materials for weapons of mass destruction. These actors benefit from the sheer volume of global trade because this makes effective monitoring extremely difficult; less than two percent of shipping containers are ever screened.
Moreover, the rise of Darknet technologies has enabled any individual to access crypto-markets that exploit standard postal and commercial shipping services. Finally, the challenge is made even greater by the proliferation of sophisticated concealment measures, corruption, limited resources, complex and diverse port processes, and systems and a lack of trust and coordination between state agencies and actors in the private sector. Thus, this situation poses grave dangers to international security and to the international trade supply chain which is vital for sustainable development.
"If the enemies of progress and human rights seek to exploit the openness and opportunities of globalization for their purposes, then we must exploit those very same factors to defend human rights, and defeat the forces of crime, corruption, and trafficking in human beings."
- Kofi Annan, Address at the Opening of the Signing Conference for the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, Palermo, 12 December 2000.