HomeNewsAnalysisColombia Cocaine Boom Likely Behind Rising European Port Seizures
ANALYSIS

Colombia Cocaine Boom Likely Behind Rising European Port Seizures

COCAINE / 25 JAN 2019 BY DOUWE DEN HELD AND PARKER ASMANN EN

Cocaine seizures at two of Europe’s biggest and busiest ports jumped by more than a quarter over the last year, underscoring the impact that the increase in global cocaine production — primarily in Colombia — is likely having outside of Latin America.

Authorities in the Netherlands at the Port of Rotterdam and in Belgium at the Port of Antwerp seized more than 73 metric tons of cocaine in 2018, a nearly 35 percent increase from the 54 metric tons seized in the two harbors the year before, according to Dutch Police, the Amsterdam-based Het Parool reported.

Cocaine seizures at these two ports have grown considerably in recent years. In 2013, for example, authorities in Belgium seized just a little more than four metric tons of cocaine at the Port of Antwerp, according to the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant.

The number of dismantled cocaine extraction labs also increased fourfold between 2016 and 2018, from just 5 to 21 last year, according to Het Parool.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of European Organized Crime

After the drugs reach the two ports in western Europe, both the Netherlands and Belgium act as transit countries for cocaine traveling to the United Kingdom, Scandinavia in northern Europe and other parts of the continent, as well as intercontinentally.

“The effect of this international [drug] trade is becoming more and more tangible in Europe and especially in the Netherlands,” according to Netherlands Police Chief Jannine Van den Berg.

Strong infrastructure and access to major river systems make these two ports ideal for traffickers. However, the Port of Rotterdam ends in a bottleneck. All traffic must go in and out the same way, making it easier for authorities to monitor while the Port of Antwerp in Belgium — one of the most extensive ports in the world — is more attractive for traffickers.

However, the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp are reportedly struggling to combat corruption — something countries throughout Latin America have also confronted — which is helping drug shipments flow through undetected, according to Police Chief Van den Berg.

The risks are high, but corrupt workers at Belgium’s Port of Antwerp can earn between 75,000 and 125,000 euros (between $85,000 and $142,000) per drug shipment they help move safely, according to De Volkskrant.

InSight Crime Analysis

The uptick in cocaine seizures over the last year at two of Europe’s most important ports provides further evidence that the increase in global cocaine production — primarily in Colombia, the world’s top producer of the drug, but also in Bolivia and Peru — is having global repercussions in transit and consumer nations.

Colombia’s boom in cocaine production has affected drug flow and exacerbated organized crime in several countries in the region. Transshipment countries for Colombian cocaine are developing more significant and transnational roles in the international drug trade. Authorities in Panama, for example, seized a record 84 metric tons of drugs in 2017 — the majority of which was cocaine.

Colombian criminal groups also have more product on hand than ever before, and are looking to new lucrative markets in Europe and Asia. European police say the continent is “inundated” with cocaine amid record production in Colombia.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

“Europe is probably very attractive to [Colombian drug trafficking groups] because it is a growing market, the street prices are higher than in the United States, and they don’t need to deal with Mexican intermediaries,” Adam Isacson, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) think tank, told InSight Crime in an email.

Several criminal groups in Colombia, including the nearly decimated Urabeños and ex-FARC Mafia groups — networks of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) guerrillas — have been linked to past seizures of cocaine shipments heading to Europe.

However, their European criminal associates don’t appear to be actually processing coca paste into cocaine hydrochloride (HCl), which would mark a significant development in their modus operandi. Instead, an already processed product is likely being extracted and turned into powder at extraction centers or laboratories in Belgium or the Netherlands.

The processed cocaine comes in different forms hidden in liquids, cloths and other goods, which can be smuggled more easily than in the drug’s final form.

*This article was written with assistance from InSight Crime’s Colombian Organized Crime Observatory.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

AUC / 8 MAY 2013

Paramilitary commanders from the demobilized AUC can now begin applying for parole, highlighting what many see as a weaknesses in…

COCA / 18 MAR 2019

Colombia’s voluntary crop substitution program has seen almost 35,000 hectares of coca crops destroyed in just eight months, according to…

BOLIVIA / 11 APR 2013

Bolivian authorities have discovered a massive half-built cocaine laboratory and arrested 10 Colombians in the country's eastern Santa Cruz department,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…