Dutch drug seizures fall sharply in first half of 2024; Cocaine total down 42 percent

ROTTERDAM - Customs officers have seized far fewer volumes of drugs at Dutch seaports and in the posted letters and packages during the first half of 2024 than in the same period last year, the government announced on Tuesday. Drug seizures at airports remained relatively stable. The decline was largely attributed to a 42 percent reduction in cocaine volume caught by authorities. 

Over the past years, the Dutch authorities have teamed up with their counterparts in Latin America to make Dutch seaports less attractive to drug traffickers. According to the government, the barriers erected against drug trafficking “appear to be having an effect.” 

For example, the Netherlands deployed liaisons to several Latin American countries, set up specialist teams with local authorities to scan for and find drugs, and increased cooperation with the business community. The government authorities took credit to say their measures appear to be working, though drug traffickers also find increasingly clever ways to smuggle drugs year after year. 

In the first half of this year, Customs officers intercepted over 16,000 kilograms of cocaine at Dutch seaports, compared to 28,000 kilograms in the same period last year. The biggest catch was over 3,600 kilograms of cocaine found at the port of Vlissingen in June. 

The same decreasing trend is also emerging in the larger northwestern European seaports, the government said. “It is likely that other routes are currently preferred to the import of cocaine through these ports.” The picture is more mixed in Southern Europe, with a strong increase in cocaine seizures in warehouses but fewer seizures at sea. 

The Dutch authorities also found drugs in approximately 6,300 outgoing pieces of posted mail, significantly less than the around 9,000 seizures in the first half of last year. It mainly involved synthetic drugs like ecstasy, LSD, and amphetamine, but cannabis and cocaine were also common. 

Drug seizures in air freight remained relatively stable - 720 kilograms of cocaine were seized in the first half of this year, compared to 680 kilograms last year. Notable findings in the first six months of this year include 60 kilos of cocaine in sports bags in an air freight container from Canada. “Cocaine from countries outside Latin America is increasingly being found,” the government said.