February 25, 2022Drug Trafficking / NewsFor many decades, the Caribbean Sea has been the primary maritime route for smuggling illicit drugs into the USA. With the USA being the world’s largest market for illegal drugs, the Caribbean’s access to the long Florida coastlines makes it an ideal smuggling route for producers across the Caribbean, Central and South America. Which Drugs Are Smuggled Through The Caribbean Sea ? The principal drug to be smuggled across the Caribbean continues to be cocaine. The leading destination, as indicated above, is the USA, mainly from the top three producers of Bolivia, Peru and Columbia. The primary routes are via Jamaica, where large criminal gangs regulate the flow of cocaine, and the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, state institutions in these two countries simply don’t have the resources to curtail drug passage through their ports effectively. It is estimated that around 1000MT of cocaine cross the Caribbean each year. However, it is difficult to accurately put a figure on this as drug enforcement agencies believe that only about 6% of traffic is ever detected, and routes are constantly being changed to avoid detection. Another drug commonly trafficked across the Caribbean is cannabis. The primary producer for this is Jamaica. However, with the drug being decriminalized in many states of the USA, this trade is declining as legal farms in the USA have begun to cut into demand from overseas. Other drugs shipped using the Caribbean Sea maritime route include fentanyl, heroin and other opioids. However, these are relatively minor problems as the cocaine market takes up over 90% of drugs shipped through the Caribbean. Which Agencies are Seizing Drugs in the Caribbean Sea? As stated earlier, maritime routes are constantly being altered to avoid law enforcement detection, making it exceptionally difficult to police. In addition, the small island nations in the Caribbean have few resources to combat international crime, so it is mainly left to the bigger players in the region. The Mexican authorities work with Interpol to control drug trafficking. However, this is primarily land-based, although Mexico’s small navy occasionally liaises with US authorities on specific operations. US authorities do the bulk of maritime drug policing in the Caribbean. To accomplish this, the Joint Interagency Task Force South, headquartered in Key West, Florida, brings together a range of governmental organizations under the direction of the Coast Guard. This task force includes the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Patrol, FBI and CIA. The task force works with agencies from over 20 other nations across the Caribbean, Latin America and even Europe. It uses coast guard and navy ships, submarines and small boats to patrol the Caribbean Sea and conduct intelligence-led ship seizures. One of the most active partners remains the French Navy, leading operation in its Economic Exclusive Zone, which recently realized several record drug seizures with the warship Germinal. How Are Drugs Moved Across The Caribbean Sea ? For many decades, the main transportation methods used ultra-highspeed small boats that could travel mostly undetected in the busy Caribbean maritime routes. However, in recent years the volume of drugs moved has increased, and smugglers have adopted other modes of transportation. Larger ships are now being used to carry drugs and even some of the largest container ships. They also use semi-submersibles; one was recently memorably captured carrying ten tons of cocaine and was placed on the lawn outside Southern Command’s headquarters in Miami as a trophy. Summing Up The drug trade across maritime routes in the Caribbean Sea has shown no signs of falling off over recent decades. Rather, it is larger than ever. Massive amounts of cocaine continue to cross from Latin America, and it seems that the War on Drugs is no closer to victory than it was at its beginning. Although vast amounts of cash and effort are used in efforts aimed at reducing supply and policing smuggling routes, it seems that addressing the demand end of the chain is the only way to end this illegal and destructive trade. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
December 21, 2021Drug Trafficking / NewsPiracy in the Gulf of Guinea is the focus of media attention. However, this area is also home to many other threats with equally high human and economic costs. Illegal fishing, drug trafficking, pollution, illegal immigration… there is no shortage of issues that weaken the region, but they do not all receive the same media attention. The symposium of the chiefs of staff of the navies of the Gulf of Guinea, organized jointly by France and Congo, is particularly exemplary of a media prism that “benefits” piracy. Indeed, this symposium, whose theme was “The operationalization of the Yaoundé architecture: ways and means”, covered the entire spectrum of maritime security. However, the majority of articles on this event only consider it through the prism of piracy, whether it be Radio France internationale (Gulf of Guinea: the chiefs of staff of the navies debate maritime piracy), France-Info-AFP (The Gulf of Guinea, the area most exposed to maritime piracy and kidnappings in the world) or Mediapart (Africa: the Gulf of Guinea is increasingly exposed to maritime piracy). Yet the other challenges facing the Gulf of Guinea and the Yaoundé architecture, which attempts to coordinate its maritime security, are equally important. Thus, drug trafficking has taken on a worrying scale in recent years. Indeed, drug seizures are multiplying, as illustrated by the recent seizure made by the Senegalese navy with the assistance of the French national navy in October 2021 or the record seizure made by the landing helicopter deck Dixmude last March. These seizures support the UNODC’s analysis that Western Africa is the main transit area to Europe. However, it is also moving from a transit area to a consumption zone. The UNODC estimates that the number of illegal drug or opioid users has tripled in recent decades. This explosion in consumption has obvious health consequences in countries whose hospital organization is often already fragile. Moreover, the profits generated by this trafficking fuel crime and corruption, further weakening local institutions. Even if the consequences are not as serious everywhere as in Guinea-Bissau, which is struggling to move away from its “narco-state” status, corruption remains a scourge largely fueled by various forms of trafficking, including drug trafficking. Finally, this traffic also supports criminal organizations whose influence extends as far as Europe, an influence that has already justified an international operation in 2019 which does not seem to have been sufficient to reduce their presence in France or – above all – in Italy. For example, drug trafficking in the Gulf of Guinea poses challenges that are on a par with piracy and whose multiple impacts are felt both locally and in Europe. Maritime security in the Gulf therefore requires a global approach without focusing on any particular threat. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
May 17, 2021Drug Trafficking / NewsDrugs, broken labour laws or expired contracts: purgatory seems endless for the crew of the Indonesian-flagged container ship Meratus Jayakarta. It started on March 19 2021, with the seizure of 2.04 kilos of heroin (worth 30 million Rupees) by the Customs Anti-Narcotics Section (CANS) of the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) while sailing off Mauritius’ coast. In addition to DNA samples taken from the two drug packages and the crew (22 Indonesian seamen), interrogations were carried out in order to discover the author who hidden the drugs in the ship’s air vents. Furthermore, due to the COVI-19 pandemic, the ship remained in quarantaine during the investigation. Interrogation of the 22 sailors revealed other offenses that the authorities did not suspect.Serious breaches of international maritime law were noted. Thus, legally, the maximum boarding time is set at 11 months and can only be exceeded with the prior consent of the seafarer concerned. Here, 13 sailors had been on board for over a year and 2 sailors had been on board for over two years. The employment contracts having expired; these sailors demanded a quick return to their homes with their families.This legal problem seals the container ship at the dock for an indefinite period despite the end of the judicial investigation. Summoned by the South Indian Ocean Sea Directorate (DMSOI), the ship-owner of the Meratus Jayakarta agreed to relieve almost all of the crew during the vessel’s next stopover in Reunion island three weeks later. Finally, the ship went back at sea on April 26 2021. The seamen concerned signed an amendment covering the period at sea until the stopover in Port des Galets (Reunion Island) scheduled for May 18, 2021. Hopefully, they will be able to go back home after all these misfortunes. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
April 28, 2021Drug Trafficking / NewsNarco-Submarine Because of huge profits generated by drug trafficking, traffickers have financial means to invest in advanced technology, such as submersibles. On March 12th 2021, the Spanish Police seized the first “Narco-Submarine” made in Europe. For several years, Colombian cartels used “Narco-submarine” as a common way to transport drugs out of their country. These submarines have different design,discretion and cargo capacities: sometimes they are just small boats right above the surface, and so escape to naval radars, but they also can be more elaborate with watertight compartments and ballast. Traffickers can use them to transport drug, but also to smuggle a wide range of goods. Let’s get back to some key dates about “Narco-submarine” in Europe. On August 14th 2006, a “Narco-submarine” was found drifting empty off near Vigo, Galicia. This is the first time that this kind of boat was seen in Europe, presuming it was used to offload drugs from an offshore vessel to the coast. On November 23th 2019, an international police operation off the coast of Galicia revealed the existence of a cocaine transport network. During the operation, a homemade semi-submersible from Latin America was found. It was loaded with 3 tons of cocaine. On March 12th 2021, a Spanish Police operation, coordinated by Europol, led to the seizure of a “Narco-submarine” made in Europa. The boat was meant to be used for drug trafficking in the coastal city of Malaga but was barely finished and not yet launched. According to the investigators, the boat should join a mother ship offshore to transfer drug cargo. Furthermore, the Spanish Police arrested 52 people and found a sophisticated laboratory able to produce 750 kg of drugs per month. This operation show an evolution of the drug market in Europe and a dramatically growth of demand. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
April 6, 2021Drug Trafficking / Illegal Exploitation Of Natural Ressources / News / Smuggling Of Illicit GoodsThe smuggling of illicit goods, in particular fish the Totoaba that is as lucrative and much less dangerous in terms of penal sanction than the traffic of cocaine. In 2018, according to an article published in The Guardian, the Mexico City police found 416 swim bladders in the suitcases of a Chinese tourist. The man was arrested and later released after paying a $600 fine. The Totoaba is a protected endemic species. While scientists believe it to be a cultural fantasy, Chinese medicine believes it to have various medicinal and cosmetic properties, allegedly due to the protein contained in the fish’s swim bladder. According to a study made by ADM Capital Foundation, a philanthropic group, three quarters of sales of products from endangered wildlife are destined for the traditional Chinese medicine industry. Because of this Chinese market, the Totoaba is on the verge of extinction, with only a few specimens left in the waters of the Gulf of California. It is this scarcity that is driving up prices, to the point of calling it the cocaine of the seas as sales prices soar from $20,000 to $80,000 per kg. In its downfall, the Totoaba is bringing with it the disappearance of the smallest harbour porpoise, also known as the little cow of the Pacific Vaquitas. In fact, this could be seen as collateral damage, taking into account the entrapment in the illegal fishing nets used by Totoaba fishermen in the Sea of Cortes. Factfile on the Totoaba and Vaquitas The international community and important personalities such as Leonardo Dicaprio are standing up to try to save what can still be saved, even if today the hope of avoiding the extinction of these two species seems very complicated. In July 2020, the release of the film “Sea of Shadows” directed by Richard Ladkani, highlights the war waged by environmental activists alongside the Mexican Navy against the Mexican cartels and the Chinese mafia. Finally, If this decline continues, it is likely to be extinguished in 2021. Like this:Like Loading... [...]