Are UK ports an alternative route for cocaine to Europe?

The increase in drug catches from Latin America in southern English ports suggests that an alternative route has been found for the shipment of cocaine to Europe. The National Crime Agency (NCA) recently released statistics indicating a 161% increase in the quantities of cocaine seized in southern English ports between early 2020 and the first months of 2021. “The increase doesn’t just depend on tighter controls,” says Roy McComb, former deputy director of the NCA and now an advisor on organized crime.

In mid-March, 3.7 tons of cocaine were intercepted in Southampton, hidden in a banana container from Colombia. This is the largest cocaine catch in the UK since 2015.

In January, about 100 kilos of cocaine were found in another shipment of bananas from Colombia in the same port area. A year earlier, in January 2021, 900 kilograms of cocaine were seized. The container with bananas in which the drugs were located was transshipped in Southampton, but was on its way to Antwerp.

Similar seizures also took place in 2021, one in the nearby Port of Portsmouth and another off the coast of Plymouth, with more than 2 tons of prohibited goods in each case. Those shipments came from Colombia and the Caribbean, respectively.

“Cooperation between the competent authorities in South and Central America and the UK has certainly improved. In fact, we have very good cooperation with the EU in that area,” Roy McComb told InSight Crime. “I firmly believe that cocaine shipments have increased. We see that partly in the larger catches, ” he said.

About the author: David Foster

With a background in international relations and a deep understanding of strategic intelligence, David Foster is a sought-after commentator on global security dynamics.

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