Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Report Studies Arms Smuggled As Normal Freight Via Container Shipping

Security for Reputable Box Carriers Needs Improvement
Shipping News Feature

IRAN – WORLDWIDE – A report published yesterday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reinforces the points made in the Handy Shipping Guide article last May that suspect cargoes are regularly being transported in freight containers on vessels which themselves do not belong to countries directly involved in sanction breaking activities.

Having been caught unwittingly smuggling arms last year French box carrier CMA CGM has now suspended all cargo emanating from Iran and claims to be ‘scanning’ all containers heading for the country. Despite widespread improvements in security technology the surest way to decrease or eliminate the threat of smuggled suspect cargoes is better information regarding the ‘paper trail’ associated with any supply chain.

The SIPRI report suggests that more than 60% of ships involved in reported cases of sanctions-busting or illicit transfers of arms, drugs, other military equipment and sensitive dual-use goods that could be used in the development of missiles and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are owned by companies based in the EU, NATO or other OECD states and the owners of the ships are primarily commercial shipping lines based in Germany, Greece and the USA, according to the study which looks at all reported incidents involving larger ships during the past 20 years.

The report also shows that the methods adopted by arms trafficking networks in response to the UN arms embargoes on Iran and North Korea were pioneered by drug traffickers in the past few decades to evade detection. These methods include hiding the goods in sealed shipping containers that claim to carry legitimate items; sending the goods on foreign-owned ships engaged in legitimate trade; and using circuitous routes to make the shipments harder for surveillance operations to track.

Usually the crews of vessels carrying suspect cargoes are of course entirely unaware as to the nature of their cargo, relying purely on ships manifest’s but occasionally ship owners, operators and captains appear to have been directly involved in smuggling contraband items, including weapons, and the report concludes that these crimes are generally associated with older vessels travelling under flags of convenience. Co author of the report, Hugh Griffiths, comments:

“Governing maritime trade has always been challenging, but opportunities are being missed to improve surveillance and use existing mechanisms to crack down on trafficking. This is an international phenomenon that requires international cooperation involving the major players in the shipping industry. We hope this report acts as a wake-up call.”

A copy of the SIPRI report by Hugh Griffiths and Michael Jenks can be downloaded HERE.