26 January 2024


On 24 January, CLECAT jointed the launch of the European Ports Alliance Public Private Partnership organised by the European Commission and hosted at the Port of Antwerp. The event was attended by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU, together with Member States, ports authorities, European associations, EU Agencies (Europol, EMCDDA) and representatives from customs and law enforcement authorities. The partnership aims to bring all relevant stakeholders together, to form solutions to protect ports from drug trafficking and criminal infiltration.

The launch of the European Ports Alliance Public Private Partnership comes against a backdrop of criminal networks using extreme violence, corruption and intimidation in their search for profits. Seizures of cocaine in the EU are at record levels, with more than 300 tonnes seized on an annual basis in recent years. In Belgium alone, authorities seized a record 121 metric tonnes of cocaine at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges in 2023, a 10% increase from the previous year.

Ports contribute to 75% of EU external trade volumes and 31% of EU internal trade volumes. As such, ports are particularly vulnerable to drug smuggling and exploitation by high-risk criminal networks. Criminals use ports to organise the passage of containers containing illicit goods into the EU. This includes drugs trafficking, one of the most lucrative criminal activities, which poses significant security threats to the EU. This is why public and private port operators, from port authorities to terminal operators and shipping and logistics companies, play a crucial role in protecting ports and EU's security.

The European Ports Alliance aims at:

  1. Mobilising the customs community against drugs trafficking to strengthen risk management and more targeted and effective controls in ports, to account for the fact that 70% of drugs seizures made by customs take place in ports;
  2. Strengthening law enforcement operations in ports and against the criminal organisations orchestrating drugs trafficking with support from Europol, Eurojust, the European Public Prosecutor's Office and through dedicated actions within the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats; and
  3. Setting up a Public Private Partnership helping against drugs smuggling to raise awareness among the different actors but also to support port authorities and private shipping companies in their role in the fight against drug trafficking and criminal infiltration.

This public private partnership will strengthen the resilience of ports and step up the fight against drug trafficking and criminal infiltration. It will focus on identifying vulnerabilities, sharing best practices and finding practical solutions to strengthen port security.

Following the launch event, the Public Private Partnership will meet annually at ministerial level, to identify remaining challenges, set strategic priorities and exchange on progress made. Stakeholders and public sector meetings will take place to prepare and follow up on the priorities set by the annual ministerial meeting.