Drugs and Narcotics  


The Research Unit on Drugs and Narcotics seeks to provide stakeholders with a comprehensive overview of and viable solutions for the illicit traffic of psychotropic substances at seaports. As part of the Department of Seaport Security, based in the Hague, the Research Unit focuses on smugglers and traffickers operating in the Netherlands. Emphasis is placed on the entry and exit of illicit drugs through the Port of Rotterdam, the largest seaport in Europe.

The aim of the Research Unit is to identify illicit drugs transiting through seaport, provide an overview on criminals’ modus operandi and collect data on drug trafficking offenses. Drug trafficking is a multi-billion industry that evolves parallel to the economic activities around the world, and these developments need to be documented and analysed in order to assess the impact of its activities on society. Through a multidisciplinary approach, the Research Unit works on advancing policy recommendations tailored to the specific needs of identified stakeholders.

Illicit Traffic of Drugs and Narcotics

With cocaine and synthetic drugs growing increasingly popular in the European Union, drug trafficking has an impact on Member States’ economy, security and health. Because of its geographic position and large port facilities, the Netherlands risks being the target of organised criminal groups smuggling drugs and narcotics into and out of Europe by sea. What is more, the fact that the Netherlands has container ship services is both a strength and a weakness on its own. Whilst container ships bring in economic advantages to seaports, they are also commonly used to smuggle illicit items across borders because of their ability to transport hefty consignments of drugs with little chance of detection as compared to mules. Hence, the Research Unit has been created to address the need for innovative solutions to combat the security challenges posed by organized crime.

The Netherlands has a prominent position in the international maritime supply chain. Preliminary research has indicated that the country is exploited as a trafficking hub for several illicit substances, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, XTC, amphetamine, opioids, and cannabis. Several actors are responsible for preventing and responding to drug-related offences in the country. As our work is to assist stakeholders to best address challenges in combating drug trafficking, the Research Unit values their involvement and support. Priority is given to public and private entities operating at major seaports.


Our Research Unit will develop, inter alia, reports, handbooks on best practices, compendium and policy recommendations. For this reason, our Team believes that the research than we can yield to can not only be applicable to the Netherlands but to other countries in Europe who face similar situations with seaports.


The Research Unit on Drugs and Narcotics is composed of young legal and international relations professionals, assisted by our Department technical units (Data Analysis, Training Development and Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement). The diversity amongst our researchers enables us to address language and cultural barriers head-on and take into account a wider perspective. The team shares a common goal of providing stakeholders with innovative recommendations for developing and implementing better policy regulations and combating illicit drug trafficking.  

Recent Publications

The work of the Research Unit on Drugs and Narcotics will be made available here. 

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