UK authorities seize 1.3 tonnes of heroin at Felixstowe in Maersk box ship

OFFICERS from the Border Force and the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom have netted 1,279 kilogrammes of heroin worth GBP130 million (US$148 million) on the streets

09 September 2019 - 19:00

OFFICERS from the Border Force and the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom have netted 1,279 kilogrammes of heroin worth GBP130 million (US$148 million) on the streets.

The drugs were found on August 30 in a container stowed on the Maersk Gibraltar at the port of Felixstowe, reported New York's FreightWaves.

'The smugglers had hidden the drugs within a cover load of towels, stitching the 1 kg blocks of heroin inside some of the towels,' said Border Force assistant director Jenny Sharp.

After the heroin was seized, police returned the container to the ship, which then headed on to Antwerp, docked in the Belgian port city on September 1 and was kept under surveillance by Dutch and Belgian law enforcement. After it was unloaded, the box was tracked as it was trucked to a warehouse in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Upon arrival, officers moved in and arrested four people who were in the process of unloading the consignment.

'This is a record heroin seizure in the UK and one of the largest ever in Europe,' said NCA deputy director Matt Horne. 'It will have denied organised crime tens of millions of pounds in profits and is the result of a targeted, intelligence-led investigation, carried out by the NCA with international and UK partners.'

The 1.3 tonne haul at Felixstowe followed the seizure of 398 kg of heroin from a vessel at the same UK gateway on August 2.

The seizure was the second on a Maersk vessel in just a week; 23,368 kilos of fentanyl arriving from China were found on the Svendborg Maersk at the port of Lazaro Cardenas in Michoacan, Mexico, on August 23.

A Maersk spokesman told FreightWaves the shipping line was committed to conducting its business in a responsible and lawful manner throughout all aspects of vessel and shore operations.

'Maersk does not accept illegal cargo and has guidelines in place for screening and handling cargo bookings,' he added. 'We proactively work with authorities to mitigate risks like these and will cooperate openly with relevant authorities during this investigation.'

The rising tide of drug smuggling in large quantities using containers has long been predicted as a likely consequence of globalisation.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) issued a policy paper in 2012 predicting the global shipping industry would be used for the transport of narcotics, arms and other illicit cargo. The authors, Hugh Griffiths and Michael Jenks, pointed to a particular risk in future years for the container shipping industry.

According to the SIPRI report, 'Maritime trade has always included a share of illicit activity. However, the advent of containerisation in particular has given maritime traffickers unprecedented opportunities to integrate their activities into the global supply chain.

'It is likely that, at least as long as the trend toward containerisation continues in the licit portion of maritime trade, containers will increasingly be used for many sorts of trafficked commodities - and mainstream companies will increasingly become unwitting accomplices of the traffickers.'


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