Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse On Board Ship, 5th Edition

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Ships present organised criminals with the opportunity to transport high volumes of drugs from producing to consuming countries. The volume of illegal drugs being moved in commercial shipping continues to increase and therefore the risk to ships and ports continues to increase. The shipping industry shares a collective responsibility to assist in combatting this illegal traffic.

Ships’ crews may be unaware that their ship or its cargo are being used as a cover to transport illegal drugs. However, if illegal drugs are found on board by local customs or law enforcement agencies, innocent companies and seafarers may potentially be exposed to huge financial fines or penalties, or even the risk of imprisonment.

The guidance contained in this publication demonstrates how to protect the ship and the crew and reduce the risk of drug trafficking occurring on board.

The publication covers:

• Key global trafficking routes

• Ports and places commonly targeted by drug traffickers

• High profile drug seizures

• Vulnerabilities of shipping

• Risk management and security strategy

• Ship security procedures

• Port facility security procedures

• Training and education

• Emerging drug trends, including drug characteristics and identification

• Responding to unusual activity at sea, in port, or involving passengers or crew

• The signs of drug/alcohol use by crew members

• What to do when drugs are found on board.




Section A – Understanding the Maritime Security Challenge


Chapter 1 – All Ports and Seas are Vulnerable

1.1 Why do you Need these Guidelines?

1.2 Strategic Response

1.3 Defining the Problem

1.4 Preparation, Protection, Prevention and Response

1.5 Global Drug Trafficking Routes

1.5.1 Key Global Routes – Flows of Heroin from/to Countries (or Regions)

1.5.2 Key Global Routes – Flows of Cocaine from/to Countries (or Regions)

1.5.3 Key Global Routes – Flows of Methamphetamine from/to Countries (or Regions)

1.5.4 Commentary on Key Drug Routes Affecting Merchant Shipping in 2019

1.6 Frequent Ports and Places Targeted by Drug Traffickers

1.6.1 High Profile Drug Seizures – Africa

1.6.2 High Profile Drug Seizures – The Americas

1.6.3 High Profile Drug Seizures – Middle East/Asia

1.6.4 High Profile Drug Seizures – Europe

1.6.5 High Profile Drug Seizures – Oceania

1.7 Drug Seizures On Board Ship

1.8 Evolving Threats


Chapter 2 – The Threat to Ships

2.1 Vulnerabilities of Shipping

Section B – Preparation


Chapter 3 – Risk Management

3.1 Security Strategy

3.2 The ISPS Code

3.2.1 Ship Security Plan

3.2.2 Designated Roles and Certification

3.3 The ILO/IMO Code of Practice on Security in Ports

3.4 STCW

3.4.1 Mandatory Security Training

3.4.2 STCW Drug Abuse Guidelines

3.5 The SAFE Framework of Standards

3.6 The Container Control Programme (CCP)

3.7 Guidelines for Prevention and Suppression of Illicit Drugs for International Shipping

Section C – Protection


Chapter 4 – Organisational Behaviour Leading to Enhanced Security Culture

4.1 Personnel Security Strategy

4.2 Personnel Control

4.3 Social Engineering

4.4 Procedural Protection Measures

4.5 Information Protection Measures


Chapter 5 – Security Measures

5.1 Port Facility Physical Protection Measures

5.2 Port Facility Security Procedures

5.3 Ship Security

5.3.1 Role of the Ship Security Officer on a Merchant Ship with Reference to Drug Trafficking Prevention

5.3.2 Ship Access Control and Identification

5.3.3 External Concealment Protection Measures on Ships

5.3.4 Hostile Reconnaissance


Chapter 6 – Cyber Security Measures

6.1 Cyber Risk and Drug Trafficking

6.2 Why do Cyber Attacks occur in the Maritime Industry?

6.2.1 How is Cyber-enabled Trafficking Accomplished?

6.2.2 Online Hostile Reconnaissance

6.3 Cyber Protection Measures

6.4 Social Engineering by Electronic Means

6.5 Cyber Risk Management – Maritime Industry Requirements and Guidelines

Section D – Prevention


Chapter 7 – Interaction and Cooperation

7.1 National and International Cooperation

7.2 Port and Ship Cooperation


Chapter 8 – Training and Education

8.1 Training Needs

8.2 Responsibilities for Delivering Training Programmes


Chapter 9 – Penalties

9.1 National Penalties

9.2 Trafficking on the High Seas

Section E – Response


Chapter 10 – Tactical

10.1 Unusual Activity at Sea

10.2 Unusual Activity While in Port

10.2.1 Potential for Drug Trafficking on Cruise Ships

10.3 Suspicious Circumstances On Board

10.3.1 Incidents Involving Crew

10.3.2 Actions in an Emergency


Chapter 11 – Operational

11.1 Concealment of Drugs

11.2 Containers (rip-on/rip-off)

11.3 Suggested Checks for Masters and Ships’ Officers

11.4 Typical Locations where Drugs are Hidden on Ships

11.5 Searching the Ship

11.5.1 Search Planning

11.5.2 Reactive Search

11.5.3 Fast Search

11.5.4 Preventative Search

11.5.5 Methods of Searching

11.6 Additional Considerations

11.6.1 Freight Vehicles and Dumb Trailers

11.6.2 Other Freight

11.6.3 Ships’ Stores

11.6.4 Miscellaneous Deliveries to Ships and Ports


Chapter 12 – Actions when Drugs are Found

12.1 Safety Considerations

12.2 General Guidance


Chapter 13 – Legitimate Packaged Chemical Cargoes

Section F – Recognition of Drugs


Chapter 14 – Drugs and Addiction

14.1 Broad Classification

14.2 Drug Addiction

14.2.1 Physical Addiction

14.2.2 Psychological Addiction

14.2.3 Environmental Addiction

14.3 Drugs Permitted On Board

14.4 Alcohol Abuse/Addiction


Chapter 15 – Emerging Drug Trends

15.1 Emergence of New Psychoactive Substances

15.2 Spice

15.3 Fentanyl

15.4 Tramadol

15.5 Captagon


Chapter 16 – Drug Characteristics and Identification

16.1 Cannabis

16.2 Opiates and Opioids

16.3 Cocaine

16.4 Hallucinogens

16.5 Amphetamine-type Stimulants (ATS) (and New Psychoactive Substances (NPS))

16.6 Sedative Drugs


Chapter 17 – Alcohol

Annex 1 – Drug Seizure Statistics in Ships, Ports and at Sea 2017–2018

Annex 2 – Training


1 Guidance for Use On Board Ships

1.1 Measures to Safeguard a Ship

1.2 Actions in Port and at Sea

1.3 Drug Policy and Procedures

1.4 Illegal and Legal Drug Use


Annex 3 – Drug Trafficking Checklists

Annex 4 – Contacts



Customs Authority Contacts





The volume of illicit drugs being moved in commercial traffic and trade continues to increase. There is no sign that illegal markets for drugs are saturated or that traffickers are encountering difficulty in identifying new or expanded sources of supply.


Unfortunately, even the massive seizures of recent years have failed to reduce the availability of drugs, as any shortage would manifest itself as an increase in street prices. Supply has clearly not been affected to any significant extent and all the signs suggest that greater quantities are being moved, frequently by more complex and less obvious routes than in the past and often by highly professional, organised criminal groups.


Drug trafficking is undertaken by sea because of the opportunities presented for high volume movements from producing to consuming countries. Once a drug consignment has entered a region, traffickers and their agents will have little difficulty in moving it within that region, taking advantage of the general wish of governments to facilitate the movement of persons and goods across frontiers.


Three principal factors must be borne in mind when considering the implications of illicit drug trafficking on any commercial means of transport, including merchant shipping:


i) The very high value of drugs, when trafficked in large quantities, has attracted the attention of major international criminal organisations and terrorist groups. In Colombia, a gram of cocaine costs less to produce than a gram of coffee, although because of the risks associated with selling the drug the final price is much higher. In 2017, a conservative estimate of the annual value of the illicit drug market was reported to be over US$426 billion. To put this into perspective, this is equivalent to 30% of the yearly value of the entire global oil and gas sector. With this value in mind, the possibility of instant violence on discovering any sizeable quantity of drugs, including armed attack, should not be overlooked and due precautions should always be taken.


ii) The professional trafficker rarely carries the drugs himself and usually finds an accomplice to do so. Merchant

seafarers are frequently targeted by traffickers and are often not fully aware of the risks involved, which include

long prison sentences and, in some countries, the death penalty.


One or more members of a crew may be a facilitator, courier or addict, or a combination of these. A facilitator ensures the safe passage of the illicit commodity onto, within and from the ship. A courier is paid to transport drugs and will be tasked to bring the drugs onto the ship, stow them, remove them and land them. The courier is usually employed by the drug traffickers either because he has legitimate access to suitable places of concealment on board, such as cofferdams, tanks and store rooms, or because he is being paid ‘in kind’ or blackmailed because he is an addict. Couriers may have ‘minders’, whose responsibility is to ensure that nothing prevents the courier from doing his job. It is not unusual for the courier to be unaware of the identity or even the existence of any minders. The minders may watch the loading or discharge of the cargo and may even be prepared to interfere with ship operations if the discovery of the illicit substances appears imminent.


iii) Although there are regions that have a higher risk than others, there are no ‘safe’ shipping routes where operators can be certain that there are no illicit drugs on their ships. Direct sailings from countries of supply to countries of consumption are the most at risk and will receive special attention from customs authorities. However, increasing quantities of drugs are moving by circuitous routes, using ports in countries with no indigenous drug production industry to reduce the risk of interception in countries of destination.



Title: Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse On Board Ship 5th Edition.
Subtitle: Guidelines for Owners and Masters on Preparation, Prevention and Response
Edition: Fifth
Number of Pages: 165
Product Code: WS1664K
ISBN: ISBN 13: 978-1-85609-808-3 (9781856098083), ISBN 10: 1-85609-808-7 (1856098087)
Published Date: April 2019
Binding Format: Hardback
Book Height: 310 mm
Book Width: 210 mm
Book Spine: 15 mm
Weight: 1.00 kg