According to the Irish Examiner, this initiative is part of EU efforts to address increasing concerns about corruption among port officials and workers, who are often subjected to severe threats and violence. European drug seizures now surpass those in the US, historically the world’s largest cocaine market. In Ireland alone, more than 300kg of cocaine was seized in Foynes, Co Limerick, last December. Two months earlier, authorities found 2.25 tonnes of cocaine worth over €150 million on a bulk cargo vessel off the Cork coast. This February, more than half a tonne of crystal methamphetamine valued at over €30 million was seized in Ringaskiddy, Cork.

The EU drugs agency and the EU Home Affairs Directorate have warned that South American drug cartels are increasingly targeting smaller ports, bypassing major ports like Antwerp and Rotterdam. This strategy could potentially involve all ports in all countries, including Ireland.

The European Ports Alliance, which unites state and private sectors, aims to enhance intelligence gathering and cooperation between police, customs, and privately-operated ports. With a budget of €200 million, the alliance plans to fund modern equipment to help customs officers in member states scan containers more efficiently, along with providing various expertise and support.

This EU initiative coincides with record-breaking cocaine seizures across member states for six consecutive years. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that 323 tonnes were seized in 2022, up from 303 tonnes in 2021 and 80 tonnes in 1996. Many EU countries, including Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, and Ireland, reported record cocaine hauls in 2023.