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UK intelligence officers intercept Maersk Container vessel with hard drugs


Abiola Seun    |  

More than a tonne of drugs – 1,196 kilogrammes of heroin and morphine derivatives – were recovered from containership Maersk Sembawang after it docked at the UK’s Port of Felixstowe earlier this month.

The international operation in which the massive haul of potentially deadly Class A drugs was stopped from hitting UK streets was led by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).

The 6,478 TEU Singapore-flagged ship, owned by Danish shipping major Maersk, arrived in Felixtowe on 12 September from Rotterdam, VesselsValue’s data shows.

As informed, NCA investigators developed intelligence and knew the drugs would be on the vessel when it docked in the UK en route to Antwerp.

The haul would be worth around £21 million ($26.8 million) to organised criminals at wholesale, and in excess of £120 million at street level.

After it docked on 12 September, the container was searched by NCA officers with support from Border Force. The drugs were hidden in bags of rice.

The seizure is one of the largest ever of heroin in the UK, according to NCA.

Last year, as part of other NCA operations, nearly 1.3 tonnes and 398kg of heroin were seized in loads arriving at Felixstowe.
After officers removed the drugs during the early hours of Sunday morning, they returned the container to the vessel, which continued on to Antwerp and docked in the Belgian port city on 15 September.

Under surveillance by Dutch and Belgian law enforcement agencies, the container was driven by lorry to a warehouse south of the Hague, the Netherlands.

Upon arrival, officers moved in and arrested three people – the driver and two men involved in the unloading.

“This is a huge seizure which has denied organised criminals tens of millions of pounds in profits, and is the result of a targeted, intelligence-led investigation, carried out by the NCA with international and UK partners,” Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigations, said.

“We know that a lot of these drugs would have ultimately been sold in the UK, through County Lines networks.”
“Even though the container ship was destined for the Netherlands, it is highly likely its illicit cargo could have ended up on UK streets as well as mainland Europe,” Chris Philp, Minister for Immigration Compliance and Courts, said.
“Working with our law enforcement partners at home and abroad, we are determined to do all we can to disrupt organised criminal networks and bring those responsible for this despicable trade to justice.”

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Shippers Council threatens to shut Denca Terminal over illegal charges. Peter Olaniyi The Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC) has threatened to seal up non compliance off dock terminals over defiance to refund storage charges to shippers as well as lack of adequate handling equipments among others. Speaking during a tour of some bonded terminals in Lagos, the Executive Secretary of NSC, Barrister Hassan Bello, stated that the council insisted that it is the responsibility of terminal operators who stemmed cargoes to bonded terminal to pay and not shippers while insisting that money collected from shippers be refunded back to them. Speaking specifically at Denca bonded terminal, Bello informed that the terminal is owing up to about N42 million terminal charges that is yet to be refunded to the shippers. While stating that failure of the terminal to adhere to the memo issued by the council, will likely lead to ceasing of the terminal license. Bello, who also lamented the poor state and location of some of the bonded terminals, urged the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) to always carry the council along before issuing license to the bonded terminals. He informed that the council will begin to post its staff to the bonded terminals to monitor and enforce efficiency at the terminals. According to him “Am particularly not happy with the arrangement that is going on between the seaport terminals and bonded terminals, each one trying to pass the bulk on transfer and storage charges, and what we are saying is that our circular which we issued in July will have to suffice for this exercise, no storage charges no transfer charges if goods are stemmed from the seaport terminal, those who stemmed the goods are responsible for whatever cost and not the shippers “So it is between the seaport terminal and the offdock terminal, there must be a standard operating procedure and a memorandum of understanding. ” I think what has been happening between the two is informal arrangement and we cannot have informal arrangement, the shipper cannot pay for what is not his responsibility “He has already nominated in his bill of laden or contract of affreightment where his cargo should go, and to transfer that cargo to another terminal, it has to be the business of the first terminal he has nominated. “It cannot be otherwise, so going through the issues tomorrow meeting will be instructive, because NSC believes in consultation and negotiations, but if for any other reason we found out that the seaport terminal or the bonded terminal is charging these fees which we have abolished, then NSC will be left with no options than to take very strict measures and that measure will include sealing of recalcitrant operators who have defiled genuine orders of NSC. “We are posting staff of NSC to all these bonded terminals to monitor and enforce efficiency. “Also some of these bonded terminals are not properly situated because there are no access to the terminal and you see the whole place not looking nice, so it is also our duty to work with Nigeria Customs that licensed them to ensure that whenever a bonded terminal is to be licensed, it’s geographical location suitability must be taken into consideration “We are now facing traffic in Apapa, we may be facing traffic where the bonded terminals are situated so I think that we are going to discuss with NCS to see that we are consulted before issuing licensed to these bonded terminals. “The same thing with equipment, we need to see that they are of standard. “Some of the arrangements are weak and we are coming very hard on them to obtain international standards”. Commenting on the deplorable states of the Denca bonded terminal , the NSC boss said “I have talked with the officials here that for them to operate we will write our report on some of these issues and we will make sure that the existence of a bonded terminal depends on the standard that is maintained internationally, if not we will recommend that the terminal license be seized. “We have about N40 million of shippers charges that has not been refunded. “At the meeting, we will decide but we cannot allow bonded terminal or any terminal of that nature to act against the rules and regulations of engagement. “Shippers, Freight Forwarders cannot be cheated just like that and I promise you will see more improvement or consequences” he said. Speaking earlier, the Managing Director of the Denca bonded terminal, Mr. Tony Asiadiachi stated that it was the seaport terminal that instructed them to collects the fee from the shippers, stating that some of the consignment carries storage which they pay before carrying it, which is later now transferred to the owners of the cargoes.

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