Pubdate: Sun, 24 Jan 2016
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Times Colonist
Author: Monique Keiran
Page: 10


In a recent Times Colonist editorial ("Drug war won't be won at sea," 
Dec. 11), the crews of coastal-defence vessels HMCS Brandon and HMCS 
Whitehorse were commended for their contributions to Operation 
Caribbe, Canada's contribution to a U.S.-led anti-drug-trafficking 
mission in the Caribbean and East Pacific. The Royal Canadian Navy 
ships assisted the U.S. Coast Guard in seizing about 10 tonnes of 
cocaine off Central and South America.

The editorial also pointed out that the efforts are having 
discouragingly little effect on the drug trade.

Waylaying drug-smuggling vessels in the 15-million-square-kilometre 
transit zone between South and North America represents a 
needles-in-a-haystack exercise. Targeting the trade at the source or 
the market end presents better - and more effective - odds.

Yes, programs to reduce demand and to provide improved treatment and 
more education here at home are needed.

However, we can also do more to help choke the shipment of drugs by sea to B.C.

Last year, a Vancouver Sun investigation uncovered evidence that the 
longshoremen hired to unload ships at Port Metro Vancouver include 
more than two dozen members of organized crime and gangs, as well as 
people with serious criminal records. Government reports, police 
documents and union membership lists indicate at least 27 Hells 
Angels, associates and criminals, as well as members of motorcycle 
gangs, Asian triads and Russian gangs, work the port's docks. The 
same documents show governments, law-enforcement agencies, the port 
authority and port-worker unions have been aware of the problem for 
more than 20 years. The unions select and hire longshoremen, and also 
protect their jobs.

Organized-crime groups access and control ports in Canada and 
elsewhere to facilitate the movement of drugs and other illegal 
products. Between 2010 and 2014, Canadian Border Services Agency 
officers seized more than half a tonne of cocaine, almost two tonnes 
of the party-drug ketamine, and more than 20,000 litres of precursor 
chemicals hidden inside shipping containers arriving at Port Metro Vancouver.

Of the more than 1.5 million containers that arrive at the port's 
four terminals every year, Canadian Border Services examines about 
three per cent. It selects containers for scrutiny after analyzing 
data about crews, vessels, cargo, routings and so on.

The agency links the smuggling to the Hells Angels and other 
gangsters working at the port as longshoremen, equipment operators, 
foremen and truck drivers.

In 2002, when a non-partisan Senate committee reported on its 
investigation into crime at Canada's major ports, it reported that 
Vancouver's port authority officials said they had no knowledge of 
organized crime at the terminals. Last year, Port Metro indicated the 
authority knew of the criminal element, but couldn't or wouldn't say 
how many dockworkers have criminal links, nor whether their presence 
significantly affected port business.

In fact, as of Jan. 1, the agency cut funding to the specialized 
police unit that investigates crime on the waterfront. The loss of 
$400,000 per year means the RCMP-led National Port Enforcement Team 
at the port is reduced to nine from 13 officers.

The port authority says the decision was made because policing is not 
part of the agency's mandate - which is true. Ports are in business 
to move as many imported goods as fast as possible to onward 
destinations. In shipping, time is money and every security-or 
contraband-screening requirement slows the process. Shipping 
companies, intolerant of delays, redirect shipments to avoid ports 
that present hassles.

This can quickly add up to billions of dollars in lost revenue for 
ports, their governing agencies and communities.

To give Port Metro credit, it also stated it is redirecting the money 
to continue investment in security-screening technologies. To date, 
the port's new security technologies include access gates, patrol 
boats, 600 cameras, large-scale imaging machines and a high-tech, 
centralized operations centre.

However, it's an odd message to send out to the world, especially in 
light of last year's publicity on the issue. Although the port 
continues to upgrade its screening technology, it is withdrawing 
funding for the very people whose experience, expertise and judgment 
contribute to deciding which containers to screen and what suspicious 
activity on the docks to follow up on.

It appears we're improving the tools to find the needles in the 
haystacks at this end of the shipping chain; we just have fewer 
people to pick them up.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom