As of December this year, the Port Control Units (PCU) and Air Cargo Control Units (ACCU) established under the framework of the UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme (CCP) have seized over 260 tonnes of cocaine – breaking last year’s record by over 90 tonnes.
The hard work of customs and law enforcement officers working within CCP PCUs and ACCUs has prevented huge quantities of cocaine from entering the markets of destination countries. In fact, as of mid-October, PCUs and ACCUs had already made 580 seizures of cocaine this year alone.
This includes a seizure of 6,993 kilograms at Guayaquil (Contecon) PCU in Ecuador and a seizure of 9,400 kilograms by officers at Cartagena PCU in Colombia. The biggest single seizure made this year was 24 tonnes of cocaine at PCU Buenaventura, Colombia. With an estimated value over EUR1.6 billion, the drugs were hidden in 800 sacks within a container transporting organic fertilizer destined to move through Antwerp and Constanza, and into Romania. Whilst ports in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain remain primary transit ports for entering Europe, there are also significant attempted shipments to, for example, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Whilst COVID-19 may have disrupted the supply chain of select drugs in the early stages of the pandemic, such as cocaine-related products, overall drug supply and trafficking remained resilient. Unfortunately, the demand side of the market equation has experienced the largest impact – with harmful patterns of drug use likely increasing during this time, and more young people engaging in drug use compared with previous generations. As surges in cocaine markets appear to be primarily supply driven, increased use by a younger demographic not only poses a threat to countries’ health systems, it will also strengthen illicit economies in source countries and stimulate greater cocaine production.
In light of the recent 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), it is also important to note the environmental impacts of these drug markets. The carbon footprint per kilogram of cocaine manufactured is significantly larger than goods such as coffee, sugar cane and coffee (in fact, 2,600 times greater than for sugar cane). The 2022 World Drug Report estimates that global cocaine manufacture produces 8.9 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year, the equivalent average emissions of 1.9 million gasoline powered cars driven in one year. The illicit cultivation of coca bush crops is also linked to drivers of deforestation and expansion of the agricultural frontier. Areas such as the Amazon Rainforest which act as natural carbon sinks, are particularly vulnerable. The link between the production of carbon emissions and the reduction of carbon sinks in the form of forests creates a very worrying picture for our climate’s future – and is a global threat that must be addressed.
Moving towards the end of 2022, UNODC-WCO CCP will continue to support participating countries in building capacity for risk management, supply chain security and trade facilitation in seaports, airports and land border crossings around the world – interrupting transnational organised crime routes and deterring the trafficking of illicit goods in source, transit and target countries.