HomeNewsBriefPanama Canal Expansion Could Boost Drug Trafficking: Interpol
BRIEF

Panama Canal Expansion Could Boost Drug Trafficking: Interpol

PANAMA / 11 JUL 2016 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

Interpol has warned that drug traffickers could capitalize on the expansion of the Panama Canal, in a reminder of the crucial but often underreported role of maritime shipping in the global drug trade.

"The recent widening of the Panama Canal brings new opportunities for the country, but it also opens up new opportunities for criminals," said Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock, who was speaking at the inauguration of the International Police Regional Conference of the Americas in Panama City.

The $5.2 billion expansion of the canal, which was inaugurated last month, has doubled the canal's capacity for shipping containers. A significant increase on the 6 percent of world trade that already passes through the canal is now expected.

Speaking at the same event, Panama police chief Omar Pinzon said the police were ready for the new challenges this increase presents.

"Panama is an enormous platform for global trade and, for this reason, it cannot be ruled out that the ships that pass through the canal will be used by criminal bands, but we are prepared for whatever is coming," Pinzon said.

InSight Crime Analysis

While it is the narco submarines, clandestine drug flights and ingenious drug mule techniques that tend to grab the headlines, the less glamorous maritime freight trade is an essential part of the global drug trade.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) Global Container Control Program, around 90 percent of all world trade involves maritime containers, but of the 500 million shipped every year, less than 2 percent are inspected.

These are winning odds for Latin America's drug traffickers, especially those trying to reach distant markets such as Europe or Asia. And it is not only drug traffickers that take advantage, but also smuggling rings that move contraband and counterfeit goods.

For authorities around the world, trying to reduce these odds has proven difficult and costly, especially as drug traffickers develop ever more innovative ways to hide drugs among legal merchandise.

"The global dependency on maritime trade, combined with not only sophisticated concealment methods employed by narco-traffickers or counterfeiters, but also diverse trafficking routes, make successful interdiction and intervention difficult," states the UNODC.

Panama is one of 20 countries around the world to establish a Joint Port Control Unit with the UNODC, and over the last seven years the unit has seized 25 tons of drugs hidden in containers, reported EFE.

However, even with international help, the sheer scale of maritime traffic through the canal means the Panamanian authorities face a near impossible task. And as Interpol points out, the more trade that passes through, the greater the odds are stacked in favor of drug traffickers.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

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.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 27 JUL 2011

Almost eight tons of cocaine headed for Central America has been seized in two raids conducted with cooperation between authorities…

BELIZE / 7 AUG 2015

Top law enforcement officials from seven Central American countries met with the US Attorney General to discuss rising violence, drug-trafficking,…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 31 JAN 2020

Authorities in Panama have ended a nearly decade-long ban on the importation of firearms into the country, a move that…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…