Transnational Organized Crime in Port Security Operations Research Paper


Seaports are an important infrastructure for the worldwide business and transportation community. There are roughly 360 worldwide ports within the United States, processing 95% of world cargo. Ports have traditionally been an intimate a part of city environments and a spot the place commerce, commerce have manifested alongside theft, smuggling, and violence. Ports are carefully related to organized crime as they function key entry and exit factors for shipments and are notoriously troublesome to police and safe. Security in ports is a troublesome process as a result of fixed circulation of shipments with completely different infrastructure and facility belonging to varied house owners, every with completely different pursuits.

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This paper seeks to reply the analysis query, to what extent is transnational organized crime current in U.S. seaports and what measures and their effectiveness have been utilized by port safety operations to mitigate illicit actions performed by such teams? Findings point out a fancy intertwined relationship between organized crime and fashionable port constructions and operations. Transnational organized crime manifests in seaports throughout three main trajectories of trafficking via the port, infiltration of the port construction and economic system, and governance of the port administration.

Security measures will be efficient via focused measures at addressing trafficking and infiltration however stays unproductive resulting from points in collaboration between personal and public safety, structural limitations, and lack of sources. Recommendations embody addressing coverage in direction of larger inter-agency cooperation and provision of legislation enforcement sources in addition to eradicating structural limitations that shield transnational organized crime in seaports.


Seaports are an important infrastructure for the worldwide business and transportation community. There are roughly 360 worldwide ports within the United States, processing 95% of world cargo being imported and exported into the nation, value $700 billion on an annual foundation (Tomer & Kane, 2015). The significance of port safety in defending the financial stability of the nation and key sources of provides can’t be understated. However, delivery can be utilized in many areas for unlawful operations by worldwide and native organized crime teams. Shipping can be utilized for trafficking of illicit medication, weapons and arms, and even people or uncommon animals. Organized crime operates throughout the realm of presidency safety companies and port safety authorities via infiltration, corruption, and even complicated means comparable to cyber-attacks (Sergi, 2020).

In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist assaults on the United States, one of many main safety measures developed and carried out have been the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) which was meant to enormously improve ship and port safety. The main focus was aimed toward terrorism which has been sufficiently diminished, however organized crime took the chance to cover unlawful actions beneath the guise of standard functioning of maritime commerce (Lantsman,2017). The ISPS has not been efficient in lowering organized crime which has used the complexity and logistics, each bodily and programs, of contemporary seaports to keep away from port safety actions.

The analysis query for this paper states: To what extent is transnational organized crime current in U.S. seaports and what measures and their effectiveness have been utilized by port safety operations to mitigate illicit actions performed by such teams?

The researcher hypothesizes that transnational legal exercise in U.S. seaports is in depth, making up at the least 10% of the seaport business visitors whereas port safety operations are unsuccessful in figuring out and persecuting illicit exercise at a constant and efficient degree as there aren’t any mechanisms to mitigate the complexity utilized by organized crime.

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Literature Review

Ports have traditionally been an intimate a part of city environments and a spot the place commerce, commerce have manifested alongside theft, smuggling, and violence. In the fashionable world, ports are important to worldwide commerce and financial prosperity of nations. However, in addition they function areas the place casual governance is shared amongst completely different actors and entities, with a web of social behaviors, each licit and illicit, forming what is named the ‘port economy’ (Bottalico, 2019).

Ports are carefully related to organized crime as they function key entry and exit factors for shipments and are notoriously troublesome to police and safe. Security in ports is a troublesome process as a result of fixed circulation of shipments with completely different infrastructure and facility belonging to varied house owners, every with completely different pursuits. Port safety should take into consideration the privatization of port administration, and subsequently privatization of safety as properly. The complicated intertwining networks throughout the port economic system create strain on operational coordination for legislation enforcement, nationwide safety companies, and safety suppliers (Sergi, 2020).

The largest business ports are weak to smuggling and arranged crime exercise resulting from quantity of container visitors processed. It reduces the potential for contraband being recognized and seized. Furthermore, ports are conduits to illicit exercise as they’re often situated in host cities with established and complicated organized crime teams (Public Safety Canada, 2018). Organized crime has two main makes use of for marine business ports.

The first is profit-oriented crimes which generate income, comparable to trafficking of medicine and counterfeit items in addition to cargo theft. The second is tactical assist to facilitate their profit-oriented crimes, together with corruption or intimidation of staff, business insiders, and safety personnel. According to Sergi and Storti (2020), there may be hardly ever only a monetary motivation behind criminality in ports, there are additionally socioeconomic explanations as ports are a stand-alone city house which could be a base for a variety of legal and even terrorist actions.

Since 2001, a spread of safety initiatives and insurance policies have been carried out within the U.S. targeted on seaports and delivery safety. The safety frameworks embody the ISPS Code, the Maritime Transportation Safety Act of 2002 (MTSA), and SAFE Ports Act of 2006.

However, the vast majority of these initiatives have been targeted on anti-terrorism measures. For instance, the SAFE Ports Act offered the Coast Guard extra duty to handle port vulnerability, with a deal with danger components which can trigger assaults on services and main lack of life. Similarly, MTSA evaluation of services sought to find out the extent that incidents could trigger infrastructure harm and lack of life (Lantsman, 2017). As a end result, the regulatory consideration and coverage have been pushed away from day by day use of ports by organized legal networks which primarily function in illicit commerce and don’t search to disrupt worldwide cargo routes or trigger main losses of life.


The main methodology used for this analysis was content material evaluation. Textual proof from a wide range of main (authorities publications, information, interviews) and secondary sources (analysis papers, dissertations, books) was gathered, coded, analyzed, and processed. The analysis targeted on two main themes recognized within the analysis query:

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  1. the extent of transnational crime and illicit actions in ports;
  2. port safety operations in stopping or mitigating illicit exercise and their effectiveness.

There was additionally proof explored concerning the long run and actions being undertaken in coverage, safety measures, legislation enforcement actions, or in any other case to extend mitigation of transnational crime in ports. Evidence was coded by the researcher primarily based on the scheme that greatest match their analysis and evaluation wants. No pc coding or statistical evaluation was used. As utilized in qualitative content material evaluation, an inductive grounded idea method was utilized, with the analysis query guiding the sampling and coding of proof (Ward, 2012).

Content evaluation has a limitation of not with the ability to draw sturdy cause-and-effect conclusions. Therefore, it could be troublesome to gauge on the precise relationship and interactions between transnational crime and safety operations. There can be the limitation that a lot in regards to the extent of the illicit actions stays unknown, solely estimated primarily based on profitable operations and legislation enforcement investigative actions. Similarly, the complete vary of safety operations, their effectiveness, and the way compromised they could be are speculative and knowledge could stay hidden as to the present establishment resulting from nationwide safety dangers. In different phrases, one of many essential limitations of the analysis performed as it’s purely speculative and can’t conclusively draw the connections and cause-and-effect relationships as a result of many constraining components.

Analysis and Findings

Since primarily current analysis has been used for this paper, the info evaluation technique utilized was secondary knowledge evaluation. Secondary evaluation is outlined as forming conclusions or information extra to or completely different from the already current proof offered within the investigation to be taught what’s already identified and what stays to be realized a few matter (Johnston, 2014). It permits evaluating the knowledge by way of when, how, and what info was collected and evaluating it to different research. Qualitative secondary knowledge evaluation helps draw conclusions and gives an introspection on a subject in a significant and structured method.

Through analysis of transnational organized crime, seaport safety, and preventive measures, it helped to achieve an understanding and bridge a niche in literature of the present current establishment and potential components which inadvertently would enable unauthorized entry to restricted seaport infrastructure for illicit actions.


International authorities and legislation enforcement companies starting from the UN to Interpol have recognized a hyperlink between organized crime and key transit factors and main transportation hubs, with giant seaports being notably weak to exploitation. Transnational organized crime thrives in ports because the likelihood of trafficked items and illicit actions being intercepted is low as a result of quantity of processed visitors and complexity of constructions.

International organized crime has established footholds in and surrounding seaports, utilizing home affect to make sure assist of their operations. Some of those actions embody corruption and intimidation of staff and administration important to port operations and storage actions in port terminals (Europol, 2021). The findings point out that worldwide organized crime will be seen in seaports throughout three main strategies of trafficking illicit items, infiltration of the port construction and economic system, and governance of the administration constructions.

In regard to trafficking, medication are the first product being shipped and on which authorities focus. However, a spread of different merchandise is shipped, together with excise items comparable to unlawful tobacco and meals. Meanwhile, outbound trafficking consists of waste merchandise shipped to keep away from paying costly duties. Counter-trafficking efforts are centered round and depending on the format of the port. Security plans deal with environmental design and situational crime prevention methods to “monitor, control, and ban access” to illicit trafficking (Sergi, 2020).

For infiltration, it is very important think about that the assorted segments of the port economic system are alternatives for organized crime. Criminal and enterprise networks sometimes intercept contained in the port and regionally, making seaports a gray space of each authorized and unlawful financial exercise. Organized crime makes an attempt to infiltrate the port economic system and providers, utilizing the enterprise and personal firms within the port. For instance, transport firms are utilized to hide and assist trafficking by infiltration of the availability chain.

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There can be the chance of contracts on the port starting from development to catering that’s used for illicit actions or as cover-ups and cash laundering to home associates of those giant crime organizations. Policing in opposition to infiltration is troublesome however includes cautious oversight over contracts and contemplating the port economic system as an area for alternatives that organized crime capitalizes on inside native cities. Existing legal networks and corrupted financial networks in harbor cities are possible related to the port economic system and guarantee there may be entry to it (Sergi, 2020).

Similar to that of financial alternatives, ports are territories the place numerous actors search to achieve affect for the financial and political energy, thus rising their revenue via authorized and unlawful means. In the context of a port metropolis, governance is exemplified in two methods. First, it may be authority over political and financial processes of the port, administration, and administration (the authorized manner). Second, governance can imply establishing everlasting management over unlawful actions ongoing via the port. The relationship between personal terminals ruled by actors managed or affiliated with organized crime and public authorities is confrontational on the subject of port safety. Terminals search to spice up financial exercise and productiveness, whereas legislation enforcement seeks to disrupt crime. As personal firms are tenants in ports, they understand public legislation enforcement presence as a disruption and intrusion (Sergi, 2020).

Security at ports is an invisible a part of day by day life, as most everybody working there accepts it. Port safety consists of a gaggle of establishments which to differing levels have interaction in policing and securing port territory. There are entities together with safety managers, police forces, particular brokers, particular items, and typically outdoors forces comparable to Coast Guard being current. They have realized to work cooperatively and belief each other. For authorities, private contacts are key to upholding the existence of a ‘port community’ the place there may be an informality of steady relationships. The port neighborhood operates primarily based on exclusion and inclusion of contacts which contributes to order, helps to adapt rapidly to environment (Sergi & Storti, 2020).

Ports are basically marketplaces, dealing with 1000’s of ships and containers day by day, functioning beneath the rules of environment friendly productiveness and fast-paced enterprise. Ports are an area for international commerce, regulated by wants of the market, which is why most are operated by personal firms trying to make ports large open and outward wanting. There is an inherent push for financial progress, with recorded revenues and streamlined bureaucratized provide chains that monitor numerous indicators together with velocity and value of loading, storage, transport, cargo dealing with, assist providers. As a results of this, safety in port communities has turn into prices factored in by these firms.

However, at its core, safety enormously slows down enterprise. For safety and authorities companies, it stays a alternative between facilitation of enterprise and border safety. Security slows down all processes, and it impacts the underside line of main companies, which might then strain the federal government. The actuality is that the facilitation and acceleration of motion of cargo and passengers each methods is all the time a very powerful (Sergi & Storti, 2020). Security stays a price and a nuisance for many, and it turns into tougher to seek out stability the 2, which organized crime has deeply exploited.

Due to the sheer quantity of world delivery, of over 50 million containers from the three largest delivery giants, it’s troublesome to even estimate the extent of illicit trafficking. At greatest, authorities in ports can verify between 1 and 5 % of all containers in respective seaports (Sinclair, 2021).

However, even then, tons of medicine value a number of billions of {dollars} are seized annually. CBP with its Office of Field Operations is the lead company for border safety points at and between ports of entry. In fiscal 12 months 2020, CBP seized “42,645 pounds of cocaine, 5,222 pounds of heroin, 324,973 pounds of marijuana, 156,901 pounds of methamphetamine, and 3,967 pounds of fentanyl” (Sinclair, 2021). It is indicative that regardless of a majority of delivery carrying authentic items for international commerce, illicit trafficking via seaports is at a scale that most individuals don’t notice, and policing or customs companies can’t realistically deal with on their very own.

One of the first points to safety and crime management in ports is the character of port governance talked about earlier. The majority of huge ports are ‘land-lord’ ports, with personal firms leasing the land and infrastructure from the federal government for many years, increase their aggressive enterprise. There are complicated governance constructions, with the house owners of the services, personal firms with a lease are tenants, whereas their purchasers are admissible visitors (Sergi et al, 2021. For safety to be efficient, it requires cooperation between public companies (legislation enforcement and state authority) and personal firms.

The greatest problem within the context of the complicated governance constructions is info sharing throughout numerous platforms and stakeholders. Law enforcement is taken into account ‘outsiders,’ in order that they battle to determine channels of constant and trustful communication with the personal firms and their safety groups (Lantsman, 2017). The three main limitations to this are:

  1. Cooperation points – completely different or competing priorities for firms and companies trying to police and safe ports;
  2. Coordination issues – overlapping jurisdictions and mandates, completely different approaches to investigation and policing amongst safety or legislation enforcement companies;
  3. Privacy considerations – inconsistency or incompatibility concerning knowledge sharing approaches or privateness protocols (Sergi et al., 2021).

Conclusions and Recommendations

It is clear primarily based on the findings that transnational organized crime is deeply built-in into seaports at each degree. The system is so deeply corrupted, benefiting a variety of people and entities each authorized and unlawful, inside and outdoors the port grounds, that it’s deeply regarding since eliminating organized crime is seemingly unattainable. Marine ports are weak to organized crime primarily based on a variety of things comparable to visitors quantity, diminished likelihood of inspection, and current storage protocols (home, worldwide, and empty containers are permitted to be saved throughout the identical compound). Seaports additionally keep complicated and difficult bodily layouts and spatial traits which contribute to the issue of safety and enforcement measures (Sergi, 2020).

Organized crime actions are everlasting and widespread all through all main ports in each nation on the planet. The crime teams function in unlawful enterprise, primarily unlawful trafficking of medicine, counterfeit items, and people. These legal organizations evolve with time as properly, not following the normal ethnic-cultural hierarchies (i.e. Italian mafia, Irish, and so on). They have grown to be more and more various and inclusive, incorporating each port staff and outdoors provide chain individuals of assorted backgrounds, lots of them in a roundabout way concerned within the mafia (Sergi & Storti, 2020). There can be a simultaneous ongoing technique of specialization in unlawful markets and diversification in seaports.

Therefore, as organized crime evolves, the extra refined and troublesome it turns into to counter via safety operations. To reply the primary a part of the analysis query, the extent of organized crime presence in seaports is in depth and far-reaching, current at nearly each degree of staff, administration, and even safety itself, using a number of strategies to keep away from being captured and trafficking illicit items via the seaport.

Some safety and enforcement measures have been profitable. These embody conventional intelligence gathering and risk-based concentrating on. It can be doable to make use of technology-based inspection or guide searches, each have led to a number of seizures of trafficked items. The main challenge is that increasing these working measures is proscribed by out there sources and financing. To improve the supply and environment friendly use of sources, inter-agency cooperation is really useful. Formal and casual cooperation between legislation enforcement companies, Coast Guard, customs and border management, and the personal safety of port-based companies can result in profitable outcomes (Public Safety Canada, 2018).

Nevertheless, analysis and proof point out that present strategies and sources are inadequate by way of the scope of organized legal exercise that goes on in seaports to make significant impression or mitigate illicit exercise at a big scale.

Therefore, to reply the second a part of the analysis query, the measures utilized by safety operations should not efficient at combatting the core of organized crime in seaports. At most, these operations can disrupt and decelerate illicit trafficking and actions, inflicting important monetary harm to the legal organizations. However, eliminating these legal constructions or bringing key actors to justice is a particularly uncommon event for legislation enforcement regardless of the extent of the penetration of organized crime in port constructions being well-known

The main suggestions to handle that is via coverage which would supply larger sources and set up formal sources of home interagency and worldwide inter-governmental cooperation to deal with the difficulty. Policy has been efficient to focus and largely eradicate terrorist threats in marine and seaport contexts (Lantsman, 2017). While this case is extra complicated, frameworks for strategic interventions and missions to fight transnational organized crime at sea and in ports will be efficient within the long-term with applicable degree of assist and financing from authorities constructions.


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