Results: Hamburg Port Security Summit 2023

October 30, 2023

“Alliance for a Safe Port of Hamburg”: Security authorities and port industry intensify fight against organised drug crime.

  • Establishment of the “Alliance for a Safe Port of Hamburg” for even closer cooperation and increased exchange of information.
  • Implementation of additional security and surveillance measures and effective protection for port industry employees.
  • Meeting of six European states at ministerial level (“Coalition European countries against organised crime”) on 7 May 2024 in Hamburg.

As Europe’s third largest seaport, Hamburg, like the other major North Sea ports, is particularly affected by international drug import smuggling. For the first time this Monday, at the invitation of First Mayor Peter Tschentscher and Senator of the Interior Andy Grote, all stakeholders relevant to port security met for an all-day exchange within the framework of the Hamburg Port Security Summit, including the State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Hans-Georg Engelke, BKA President Holger Münch and the President of the General Directorate of Customs, Colette Hercher, as the highest customs officer in the country.

In order to be able to jointly and resolutely counter the considerable dangers posed by internationally organised drug-related crime at all levels – official, private sector, regional, national and international – and to develop even more effective protective measures, the participants agreed on Monday to pool their competences and the know-how of all actors within the framework of a newly founded “Alliance for a Safe Port of Hamburg” and to once again significantly expand protective and preventive measures.

At the end of the Hamburg Port Security Summit, the representatives of the security authorities and the port industry agreed on a joint declaration which already contains the first concrete steps (see appendix). For the implementation of the agreed measures, the partners are working on the establishment of a joint port security centre to ensure permanent close networking between the actors and an increased exchange of information. The creation of a working structure is also intended to ensure that the agreed measures, in addition to the already established concepts, take effect as quickly as possible. This includes, among other things, the expansion of structural and technical security and monitoring measures in the port or the increased use of forgery-proof container seals (so-called smart seals).

A central goal of the alliance is to effectively strengthen the protection of port workers against recruitment attempts and all resulting dangers from criminal organisations. In addition to a corresponding awareness campaign, the establishment of an anonymous whistleblower portal is planned in particular. All employees should be able to feel safe and have the possibility to contact the security authorities anonymously and in confidence at any time. It was only at the beginning of October that the security authorities in Hamburg succeeded in striking a blow against so-called internal perpetrators.

The police, the customs investigation office and the public prosecutor’s office in Hamburg executed 17 search warrants in four federal states as well as five arrest warrants. This was preceded by intensive investigations by the “Joint Narcotics Investigation Group” (JIT) of police and customs. With the measures decided today, the “Alliance for a Safe Port of Hamburg” is also building on the successful cooperation of the joint investigation group in the past years.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior and Home Affairs (BMI) also announced that next year Hamburg will host a ministerial meeting of the “Coalition European countries against organised crime”, an alliance of six European states. The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Germany have agreed to cooperate more closely in the fight against organised crime, especially narcotics crime, and to coordinate their respective efforts even more. The coalition meeting is expected to take place in Hamburg on 7 May.

Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser: “State institutions, law enforcement agencies and the private sector must pull together in the fight against internationally organised drug crime and especially the cocaine glut. Today’s port security summit is another important step in the fight against unscrupulous drug traffickers and organised crime. Improving port security in Hamburg and in Europe must also go hand in hand with intensifying cooperation with Latin American states as countries of origin of drugs.

With international and national cooperation, we can coordinate investigations even more closely and strike in a targeted manner. Seaports like Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg must not be gateways for hundreds of tonnes of drugs into the EU. These drugs destroy people and bring huge profits to criminal traffickers. Together we will put a stop to the unscrupulous perpetrators.”

Katja Hessel, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Finance: “Customs is currently implementing the strategy for combating organised crime (OC) and money laundering presented by Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner early this summer. In addition to sustained criminal prosecution, the aim is to hit the perpetrators with effective financial investigations where it hurts them most: with illegally obtained assets. Together with the competences of the police and the port industry, the new OC combating strategy of customs will also lead to an even more effective and sustainable fight against organised structures of drug smuggling in the port of Hamburg. If we move even closer together – as we do here in the Port of Hamburg – we will succeed in staying as far ahead as possible of the dynamics of the permanently changing internationally operating offender structures and offence phenomena.”

Andy Grote, President of the Hamburg Ministry of the Interior and Sport: “Today we have set out to protect our port more effectively against organised crime and to counter international drug trafficking even more effectively and powerfully. The measures and steps agreed today will make it even more difficult for criminals to carry out their destructive business in the port in the future. The close cooperation between the Federal Ministries, the Federal Criminal Police Office, Customs and the port industry sends a powerful signal. Together, we will make the Port of Hamburg an increasingly safe place for the port industry and its employees and an increasingly unsafe place for criminal structures.”

Andreas Rieckhof, State Councillor of the Ministry of Economics and Innovation: “Security in the port is a necessary prerequisite for economic success. It is a common concern of all stakeholders, the authorities as well as the port industry, and can only be achieved in close cooperation. The participants have a lot of know-how from their previous cooperation, which is now being brought into even closer cooperation. We are also exchanging information with the other western ports on the North Sea coast in order to incorporate previous experience. We are confronting drug smuggling together.”

Colette Hercher, President of the General Directorate of Customs: “Customs fights cross-border organised crime using the most modern technology, targeted and situation-adapted risk analyses, its decades of experience as well as the necessary personnel approach. In doing so, we work closely with all cooperation authorities. We as Customs welcome the initiative of today’s port security summit and will commit ourselves as a reliable partner in the joint follow-up work arising from it.”

Holger Münch, President of the Federal Criminal Police Office: “In the fight against drug-related crime, the Federal Criminal Police Office initiates and supports measures at all points of the logistics chain. In doing so, we cooperate with security authorities at national and European level as well as with our partners in the countries of origin and transit. In order to curb the import smuggling of narcotics via the seaports, it is also essential that we – the law enforcement authorities and customs with the private sector side such as port and logistics companies – pull together. Initiatives such as the Port Security Summit are therefore an important contribution to sensitising all those involved and affected to the problem and the associated dangers and to developing suitable countermeasures.

The “Alliance for a Safe Port of Hamburg” founded today and the joint port security centre will make important contributions in our joint effort for more port security.”

Jan Hieber, Head of the State Criminal Police Office of the Hamburg Police: “The Port of Hamburg plays the central role in Germany in the import smuggling of cocaine. To be successful, organised crime needs what is known in criminal jargon as the door into the port. The port’s inside perpetrators are the decisive key to this. This is where we come in – both in our investigations and in prevention. In our view, the establishment of a joint port security centre with all relevant actors offers great potential to further raise the fence against cocaine import smuggling.”

Gunther Bonz, President of the Port of Hamburg Business Association: “Safety and security are top priorities for the port industry. In close cooperation with their customers, port companies take all necessary measures to ensure the security of supply chains and prevent smuggling. Changes to legal regulations necessary for this, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, should be implemented without delay.”


The final paper “Alliance for a Safe Port of Hamburg” confirms the measures in the fight against drug import smuggling, which are to be consistently continued and deepened. Furthermore, those responsible are striving to develop and intensify additional preventive and repressive measures to curb illegal drug importation. For this purpose, competences and the high level of know-how of all partners are to be bundled. The following focal points and approaches to action are already considered to be goal-oriented and are to be jointly pursued further:

1) Establishment of a joint port security centre.

A central prerequisite for effectively combating drug import smuggling is a high degree of networking and information exchange. For improved cooperation and targeted communication between the actors, we are examining the establishment of a joint port security centre. This should enable closer cooperation, faster exchange within the framework of the legal possibilities, short distances and short-term joint actions by the relevant partners.

2) Intensification of investigations in the area of drug import smuggling and in the area of internal port offenders.

In the interest of an even more efficient fight against organised crime, especially with regard to cocaine import smuggling via the port of Hamburg, the already institutionalised cooperation between the Hamburg Customs Investigation Office and the Hamburg State Criminal Police Office in the Joint Narcotics Investigation Group (JIT) will be further intensified. In this context, the so-called port inside criminals are in special focus. The large quantities of cocaine seized in the port of Hamburg this year testify to the high penetrating power of the JIT, the police and the public prosecutor’s office. But we can and must do even better. The law enforcement authorities will also continue to expand cooperation with the companies in the maritime industry within the scope of their respective competences with the aim of identifying and promptly closing new weak points and providing the port companies and their employees with the best possible protection against organised crime structures.

3) Prevention: awareness campaign for port employees

We are intensifying our preventive efforts with a view to the so-called internal harbour criminals. Here it is particularly important not to leave the employees in the port alone, but to effectively protect them from being contacted and approached etc. by criminals. To this end, we will carry out an EU-funded “awareness campaign” in the INOK project (“Infiltration of North Sea Ports by Organised Crime”) led by the Federal Criminal Police Office. In addition, an anonymous whistleblower portal is to be set up.

4) situation-adapted risk analysis and effective use of screening technology

The effective use of customs screening technology is closely linked to a prior, targeted and situation-adapted risk analysis in order to identify high-risk containers and subject them to targeted screening. The aim is to continue to develop and intensify this risk analysis, also taking into account technical progress and examining further technical developments and new forms of cooperation, in order to take even more comprehensive account of high-risk containers.

5) Port security through technology

Already today, the terminals and ships in the port are specially secured and protected with a variety of structural and technical security measures (ISPS Code). In this respect, we aim to optimise this high level of protection by examining the use of further technical security measures such as cameras and drones at suitable locations. Furthermore, an in-depth exchange or the examination of close forms of cooperation between the terminal operators with their specific knowledge, the customers of the terminal operators and the security or law enforcement authorities is promising.

5.1) Authorisation and access management

A decisive factor in increasing security is knowledge of the authorised persons in the port under the catchword “know your customers”. Taking into account existing company-specific solutions, we are examining a further increase and harmonisation of security standards.

5.2) Use of forgery-proof container seals

In order to better protect containers against illegal access, we are promoting the use of forgery-proof container seals (so-called smart seals) and smart containers. We want to use the experience already gained by the shipping companies for the further process.

5.3) More secure container release procedure

Insufficiently controlled access to information and control systems enables criminal networks of organised crime to manipulate locations and access the container. The common goal is a secure container release process through encrypted, traceable and clearly limited data access.

6) comprehensive automation of container terminals

The comprehensive automation of container terminals can further improve security in the port. Through technical monitoring and control of terminal operations, irregularities can be detected immediately.

7) Continuation of cooperation with the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp

Intensive cooperation and coordination at European and international level are indispensable for a uniform and united approach against organised drug smuggling. Hamburg’s participation in this, for example in the Port Security Steering Committee (“3 Ports” – Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg), will be continued. This steering group, consisting of representatives of the three large North Sea ports as well as the security authorities responsible for them, was established in autumn 2021 in order to largely standardise port security developments in the ports.

8) agreement on a working structure

The partners shall place their cooperation on a sustainable and structural basis under the umbrella of the “Alliance for a Safe Port of Hamburg” and in this respect strive to establish a regular exchange as well as the establishment of a working structure to accompany the implementation of the agreed measures and goals.

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