Drugs are taking a heavy toll on society all around the world. It is a complicated problem that consists of several elements: from the production and supply of drugs to their sale and use. Drug addiction has a devastating physical and social effect on people and communities. Because of the large amount of money involved, the drug trade also causes violence and other forms of criminal activity.

Why is Port of Antwerp-Bruges afflicted so much by drug trafficking?

Port of Antwerp-Bruges is a gateway to Europe. Antwerp and Zeebrugge are surrounded by an extensive network of international motorways.


Unfortunately, the advantages that make Port of Antwerp-Bruges an easily accessible world port also mean it has to contend with a portion of the international drug traffic. Drugs arriving here are not only destined for the Belgian market. A large proportion of them are transported to other European countries illegally. 

Action plan against drug crime

In February 2023, the Belgian and Dutch governments and five major shipping companies committed to jointly step up the fight against drug crime. Specifically, they are taking additional measures such as the use of 'smart' containers and container seals, the recruitment of additional staff in customs and police, screening of port employees by security services, information exchange and higher international security standards. Here are the seven concrete measures:


Here are the seven concrete measures:


  1. With the appointment of Ine Van Wymersch, there is a federal drugs commissioner since March 2023 to coordinate efforts against drug crime at least until 2028.
  2. A new police unit will be set up within the maritime police for port security. One hundred officers will be deployed, including many from the federal police reserve. The ambition is to double the number of officers even more by 2024.
  3. Local authorities will be given more powers to tackle businesses involved in money laundering. This includes revoking the ISPS certificate of terminals that systematically fail to comply with the ISPS code.
  4. There will be bigger fines of up to €1,000 - three times more than before - for using cocaine. Alternative penalties will include a rehabilitation course.
  5. There will be better and more scanners so customs can check all suspicious containers at the port. Customs is recruiting 108 additional staff for the Antwerp port platform. 
  6. The 16,000 people working in the Belgian ports will be subjected to stricter screenings, similar to what already happens at airports. This screening will look not only at criminal records, but also at other databases, people's financial situation and their contacts. 
  7. Belgian police will cooperate more closely with foreign police forces and foreign governments, including those of the United Arab Emirates. Belgium has concluded several treaties with the Gulf state, including on the extradition of suspects and criminals. 

What is Port of Antwerp-Bruges doing to tackle drug trafficking?

Besides the additional measures taken by the government, the Antwerp-Bruges Port Authority supports the security services by monitoring the implementation of security measures, sharing information, facilitating the implementation of technology and data analysis.

What is Port of Antwerp-Bruges doing against drug crime

Also Port of Antwerp-Bruges is making efforts


The City of Antwerp, the Antwerp-Bruges Port Authority, the local and federal police, judicial services, customs, the Harbour Master's Office, companies at the port, including the container terminals and everyone who works at the port, all work together in the fight against international drug trafficking. 


Physical security of container terminals and access control

The Harbour Master's Office oversees terminals' proper compliance with ISPS security procedures and obliges an access and registration policy for all businesses in the port. That way, people cannot just come and go as they please. In addition, the container terminal operators take extra measures to protect their employees, activities and company premises. They strictly supervise who has access.


Virtual secure port

Port of Antwerp-Bruges is aiming to create a digital ‘security network’ for the port. To this end, we are using cameras, sensors and various computer systems. The Certified Pick-Up platform, for example, ensures that the picking up of containers is digitally secured and that it is always possible to find out who picked up a particular container.


Awareness-raising among port staff

Drug gangs put pressure on port staff to help them with drug trafficking. Anyone who helps with drug smuggling at the port, in whatever way and for whatever reason, risks heavy prison sentences. This is why it is important to inform port staff of the dangers of drug trafficking and to protect them from criminal organisations. CEPA sensitizes port workers and makes them aware of the dangers of drug trafficking for their personal safety and the safety of their families.


‘Our Port Drug-Free’ reporting point

How can you help to keep the port drug-free? By reporting suspicious situations! Your report could help the police with their investigation, meaning they can act in a more targeted and effective manner. Report suspicious situations anonymously at 'Our Port Drug-Free' reporting point.


A safe port

Port of Antwerp-Bruges is and will remain a safe port for ships and crews calling at our port. The partners (justice, judicial and maritime police, customs, the Antwerp-Bruges Port Authority and the private port community) are joining forces to reduce the illegal trade in cocaine through our port. 


There is no miracle solution to stop drug trafficking. This is why it is essential to tackle the drugs problem on several fronts at the same time.

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