Antwerp and Rotterdam are new epicentre of European cocaine trade

Cocaine seized in Rotterdam. Photo: Public Prosecution Department
Cocaine seized in Rotterdam. Photo: Public Prosecution Department

The increased use of shipping containers to conceal drugs has made the high volume ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg the new epicentre of the European cocaine market, according to a new report on the industry by European police organisation Europol.

This means Europe’s North Sea coast has now overtaken the Iberian peninsula as the primary point of entry for cocaine reaching Europe, Europol says.

While Antwerp is the biggest arrival port for cocaine, most of the drug is ‘is likely intended for organisations operating out of the Netherlands, from where the cocaine is further distributed to other European destinations, Europol said.

At the same time, the booming cocaine market has led to an increase in murder, shootings, bombings, arson, kidnappings, torture and intimidation related to the trade in cocaine, Europol said.

The Netherlands is the ideal environment for the international drugs trade

In order to combat the trade, European countries need to do more to tackle production at source, share information and target corruption at ports, without
which, Europol says, many illicit shipments could not happen.

In addition, the authorities should make sure that whistleblower mechanisms and anonymous reporting channels are in place and functioning adequately.


Dutch customs officers impounded some 48,000 kilos of cocaine in the ports and at Schiphol airport last year, a rise of 24% compared to 2019.

Seizures at labs are also going up. Last July, police busted the biggest cocaine laboratory ever found in the Netherlands, arresting 17 men, including 13 Colombians, in the process.

The location in Nijeveen, a former stable complex fitted with sleeping quarters and recreational facilities, was used for extracting cocaine from impregnated material, such as clothing. Police found tens of thousands of litres of chemicals and some 100 kilos of cocaine base.

In May, Dutch justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said he was allocating a further €5m to tackle crime at Rotterdam port.

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