While cargo containers are essential in the trade and maritime industry, they also provide a vehicle for smugglers to operate with little difficulty. A recent study done by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute discloses how arms dealers aim for western-owned maritime companies. This comprehensive study of maritime trafficking is one of the first of its kind.
It reveals that most ships involved in reported cases relating to “sanctions-busting” or the illegal transfers of weapons, drugs, or equipment that can be used in making missiles and weapons of mass destruction are owned by shipping companies from some of the world’s richest countries. These vessels are generally commercial lines based in Germany, Greece, and the United States. However, the ship owners and captains do not always necessarily know what they are carrying.
The report states that drug traffickers established the methods used by arms trafficking networks in response to the United Nation’s Iran and North Korea embargos. Some of the methods include hiding goods in sealed shipping containers, sending goods on foreign-owned ships involved in trade, and using convoluted routes to make it harder for surveillance operations to track shipments. With so many containers passing through the world’s ports daily, only a fraction can be thoroughly inspected. Many shipping and customs officials have to put their faith in the cargo documents for each container, which can be risky.
Also, according to this study, it has been proven that when the ship owners or operators and crew are directly involved in the trafficking, the ships tend to be older and sailing under flags of convenience. These ships also perform badly in safety and pollution inspections upon port entrance regularly.
To download the publication, click here.