6-7 November 2013, Limassol/Cyprus
19/2013 Trafficking in Container Shipments
Even if you are a smoker you might not recognised immediately a lorry full of cigarettes right in front of you. The picture is from a scanner used at Limassol Port in Cyprus, where the group of about 44 customs and police professionals started their two days seminar on Trafficking in Container Shipments.
The activity was the second one of this kind and has developed further the concept launched last year in Rotterdam/Felixstowe container ports. This year we had much better balance between police and customs and we had many ‘couples’ whereby the customs officer and the police colleague were from the same country (Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom and Iceland). As CEPOL is considered as ‘just for police’ agency, an exceptional provision was arranged enabling the customs colleagues to enjoy the same conditions as the regular participants on CEPOL courses.
We much appreciated the warm welcome and sharing of experience offered by the Customs Port Authorities in Limassol. Legal trade, security and environmental aspect are all considered and receive proper attention as we understood from the input delivered by Cypriot colleagues. An on the spot visit to the portable lorry scanned finalised the half day at Limassol container port.
The reason for engaging in promoting the more intensive inter-agency cooperation is to contribute to the EU priority focusing on disrupting the trafficking of illegal commodities, mainly in container form, which was set for the EU Policy Cycle for fight against organised and serious international crime 2012-2013.
As the EU represented by the European Commission is applying a harmonised approach and created a customs security/safety area, there is a set of EU Common Risk Criteria (EU Confidential). Each Member States via its customs function I responsible for risk analysis, here for containers arriving or departing to/from the EU. The seminar in Limassol offered an opportunity to police officers to understand customs procedures and opportunities in order to benefit from the intelligence discovered. The Customs speakers from Slovenia, Ireland and France explained the way how the risk assessment is executed. Clear evidence that it was understood was the final exercise where the police group prepared an excellent smuggling scenario, avoiding any attention of customs and bringing their cocaine cargo in a container safely to Europe. It was a faked scenario!!
We have been presented the way how the UNODC and its Container Control Programme encourages police and customs cooperation at container ports in third countries. For the illegal goods coming from outside the EU it is vital to know about contacts for international cooperation.
This year the stress was put on two illegal commodities: cocaine and tobacco products. Although cigarettes only become illegal once avoiding the excise duties, there is also a problem of health issues caused by counterfeit cigarettes. We enjoyed the demonstration delivered by the British American Tobacco and the hands-on exercise explaining features of genuine cigarettes comparing to the faked ones.
As for many CEPOL activities, Europol presented its offer in the area of illegal tobacco, in particular the services of the Focal Point Smoke.
The UK led and EU funded project will map the situation regarding rip-off in order to better response to this more and more frequent modus operandi misusing the huge quantity of containers and limited capacity for physical check.
The challenge is and remains to keep the legal trade operating as quickly as possible, however, restrict the entry of illegal goods.
As a course manager, I would like to convey my greatest thanks to the colleagues from the NCP Cyprus without whom the event would not take place so successfully.