The United Nations crime fighting agency has teamed with customs agencies around the world to combat the illegal transport of people, weapons and drugs in the more than 7 million shipping containers that move around the globe each day.
The Container Control Programme is intended to support port control measures in developing countries, bringing together new teams of customs officials and police, and providing them with training and equipment to target illicit trafficking via maritime freight containers.
Launched by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with the World Customs Organization (WCO), the programme’s $1.4 million first phase will begin at the ports of Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Dakar, Senegal. Similar port control activities should expand to Pakistan and Ghana next year.
According to UNODC, container traffic has risen over the past 10 years to 220 million units in 2000, and is expected to double by 2012, as licit merchandise transported in containers generates legitimate revenue for hundreds of millions of people.
But containers also facilitate the trafficking of large quantities of heroin and cocaine. They also often serve the trade in weapons, chemical waste and even human beings, and are used to ship money earned illicitly from organized crime.
“Visiting borders and ports in developing countries, one can notice a huge number of trucks and containers without the specialized controls needed to separate commercial trade from criminal activities,” said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa.