The UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme (CCP)

The Situation

More than 420 million containers move around the globe by sea every year, transporting 90 per cent of the world's cargo. Most carry licit goods, but some are being used to smuggle drugs, weapons, even people. The sheer volume of this international maritime container traffic, the sophisticated and often ingenious concealment methods, along with the diverse routings adopted by illicit drug traffickers and other smugglers, invariably makes successful interdiction difficult. Some of the challenges in enforcing law at sea ports include lack of adequate resources, inter-agency mistrust, complex port processes and systems, and other factors which are purposefully exploited by criminal organizations. The situation poses a very real and serious threat to the security of the international trade supply chain that is critical for sustainable development.

UNODC's response

The UNODC response is the UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme (CCP), already implemented in Benin, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Ghana, Pakistan, Panama, Senegal, Togo and Turkmenistan. The Container Control Programme, launched in 2003, was developed jointly by UNODC and the World Customs Organization (WCO) to assist Governments to create sustainable enforcement structures in selected sea ports in order to minimize the risk of shipping containers being exploited for illicit drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and other forms of black market activity.

Activities of the programme

  • Visits to discuss and brief Governments and Government officials about the objectives and activities of the programme
  • Technical Needs Assessment of selected seaports and/or dry ports
  • Assessment Report completed with description of the current situation and recommendation for future activities, including needs for technical equipment and training
  • Arranging Training Workshops to introduce risk-based profiling of containers and improved information exchange at the national, regional and international levels on container crime.
  • Establishment of the container profiling unit in the selected seaport/dry port
  • Arranging of the Work Study Tour

Target Groups

The immediate beneficiaries at the national level are relevant law enforcement agencies, whose staff will be better structured, trained and equipped to more effectively target high risk shipping containers for law enforcement scrutiny without disrupting the flow of legitimate trade.

The measures will directly benefit the trade and the business community as well as seaport authorities through both the improved port and supply chain security and by maintaining the integrity of export commodities.Information exchange and container alerts, for example, will play an important part not only in facilitating inspections but also in the advance planning of target operations, the deployment of specialist investigation techniques, and in post seizure investigations.

Creation of port control units

At the heart of the CCP is the creation of port control units (PCUs) at selected container terminals. These units will be located in a secure environment, preferably inside the ports, and staffed by front line personnel who will be trained and equipped to systematically target high risk containers whilst facilitating the free flow of legitimate trade.

Training activities

The training itinerary which combines onsite classroom training, practical field training, e-learning modules and work study tours to a benchmarking sea port, is delivered by technical experts from WCO, UNODC and other international organizations. The training activities are conducted in different phases.

First training phase

The first training phase encompasses basic theoretical and practical training, where trainees will be introduced to a wide range of international legal instruments and the principals concerning information sources, risk analysis and other profiling techniques, cargo inspection, information exchange mechanisms, post seizure investigations and trade facilitation. The training also includes the use of internet as an important information source. After the class room training, practical training follows, where trainees learn to apply the profiling and searching techniques in practice. An experienced trainer will undertake practical exercises to identify and inspect a high risk container. Trainees will become skilled at selection of containers in the pre-arrival (imports) and/or pre-departure (exports) phase, and undertake physical examinations.

Second training phase

After having received basic training, an advanced training level will follow. During the second training phase, specialized trainers will conduct more specific training such as the use of dual-use goods, environmental crime, trafficking in endangered species, in counterfeit goods, trafficking of nuclear material, trafficking of firearms and mass destruction weapons etc. The choice of subjects will take into consideration the specific needs and identified problems of the relevant countries. With regard to the preparation of the training curriculum and selection of experts/trainers with proven operational experience in the relevant fields, UNODC and WCO closely work with specialized agencies such as ICPO/Interpol, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other international bodies.

Third training phase

After having successfully completed the previous trainings, a work study tour to a bench marking port in Europe (or elsewhere) will be arranged for the trainees. This tour will provide them with the unique opportunity to learn first hand from experienced foreign customs officer and discover different working techniques compared to their home port. It will enable them to acquire new skills and experiences which they can apply in their daily work practice in their home countries.

Fourth training phase

The fourth training phase encompasses regular mentorships by trainers. These mentorships are organized for two reasons, firstly to warrant sustainability of the programme and secondly to ensure that officials who become newly part of the Port Control Units are being adequately trained and have the same level of skills as their colleagues.

Information exchange

The PCUs will also be equipped to exchange information with counterparts in other countries using a secure communication application developed by WCO called ContainerComm. This user friendly, internet based and multifunctional communication tool facilitates the encrypted exchange of sensitive information between authorized users in participating countries including alert notices of the shipment of possible high-risk containers. It also allows users to verify container numbers. ContainerComm is both cost effective and requires no special installation. It is continually being enhanced and is available in English, French, Russian and Spanish.

The CCP actively supports the formation of alliances, cooperation and information exchange between customs, trade, and enforcement communities as a means to prevent the abuse of legitimate commercial trade for the purposes of organized crime. Improved cooperation and coordination of action in the participating states will substantially improve the opportunity for the successful interdiction of shipping containers being used to transport illicit commodities.


• Training Manual for container control (used during training activities and to be handed out to participants)

• Port Assessment Handbook (used for standardized technical needs assessment, including elements from the ISO Standards for security in the trade supply chain)


• ContainerComm (Information sharing system)

• C-Hawk (Container Intelligence system for searching and tracking of containers)

ContainerComm is a user friendly, internet based and multifunctional communication tool that facilitate the encrypted exchange of sensitive information/intelligence between authorized users in participating countries/ports. The application includes pre-formatted warning messages related to high risk containers, pre-formatted feedback messages and pre-formatted seizure messages. ContainerCom links all JPCUs with each other and allows for easy communication.

C-HAWK is a web-based application specifically developed for border security agencies. It utilizes a large collection of foreign-to-foreign maritime cargo movement data (over 400 million records in the database) in combination with domain-specific analytics to enable more effective risk assessment and targeting. Access will be granted by the CCP for a period of 2 years. When this trial period is over the participating countries must do a cost benefit analysis themselves to find out if this is a valuable tool for interdiction of high-risk containers.


Under CCP several types of goods have been seized. Since March 2006 more than 36 metric tons of cocaine, 26 metric tons of cannabis and approximately 770 metric tons of precursor chemicals used to produce drugs have been seized.

Annual Report 2014

Annual Report 2013

Regional approach

A regional approach to improve regional information sharing, cooperation and coordination has been adopted. The CCP has activities or planned activities in the following countries, all contingent upon sufficient donor funding:

Latin America and the Caribbean:

Costa-Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama and Paraguay

East Africa:

Kenya and Tanzania

North Africa:

Algeria and Morocco

West Africa:

Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo

Central Asia/ECO Countries:

Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, I.R. Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan

The sheer volume of international maritime container traffic with approximately 420 million
containers shipped yearly in the trade supply chain, the sophisticated and often ingenious
concealment methods, along with the diverse routings adopted by illicit drug traffickers and other
smugglers, invariably makes successful interdiction difficult. Seaports are notoriously difficult
and at times dangerous places to work and law enforcement structures are often hampered by a
lack of resources, inter-agency mistrust, complex port processes and systems, and other factors
which are purposefully exploited by criminal organizations. The situation poses a very real and
serious threat to the security of the international trade supply chain so important to sustainable