NWO grant for Erasmus School of Law project FORT-PORT to tackle subversive crime in the port of Rotterdam

Fort Port

The FORT-PORT (Focusing On the Right Things in the Port of Rotterdam) project, in which government organisations, (port) companies, and scientists work together to tackle cocaine trafficking, human smuggling and corruption in and around the port of Rotterdam, has received a grant of 3 million euros from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). In addition, the various public and private partners in the research consortium are also contributing more than half a million euros to the project. The project is led by Erasmus School of Law researchers Karin van Wingerde, Lieselot Bisschop, Robby Roks and Richard Staring.

The Rotterdam mainport offers employment and opportunities to numerous people, like crane operators, boatmen and dockers. Yet, it also offers opportunities to drug collectors and human smugglers who, each in their own way, are connected to internationally operating criminal networks. 


FORT-PORT aims to provide better insight into how criminal organisations involved in cocaine trafficking and human smuggling operate in and around the port of Rotterdam. These insights will enable governance actors to intervene proactively and thus prevent drug trafficking and human smuggling related violence and harm. Moreover, FORT-PORT aims to shed light on the bottlenecks and success factors in the existing public-private partnerships in the port, and stimulate exchange with other (main)ports in the Netherlands and Europe, allowing for a future-proof governance set-up. 

A future-proof port

FORT-PORT starts in the port of Rotterdam as a logistics hub but has a strong international focus both in terms of the phenomena of cocaine trafficking and human smuggling and the approaches against it, which will also have to be more internationally oriented given the global nature of the problem. The project will raise public awareness and resilience by initiating public debate on the societal breeding grounds for cocaine trafficking and human smuggling, as well as on the importance of an integrated approach that is mindful of possible side effects of raising all possible barriers. FORT-PORT thus contributes to the development of an economically prosperous, safe, resilient, and therefore future-proof port and to increasing societal resilience against subversive crime.

Interdisciplinary collaboration

FORT-PORT is an interdisciplinary collaboration between criminology and criminal law of the Department of Law, Society and Crime of Erasmus School of Law, mathematics and computer science of Delft University of Technology, the Centre for Game Research of Utrecht University and the Freudenthal Institute of Utrecht University. The consortium is composed of all public and private parties involved in the approach to cocaine trafficking and human smuggling in and around the port of Rotterdam.

Innovative methods and various perspectives

FORT-PORT combines several innovative methods (empirical criminological insights, quantitative network analysis and mathematical modeling, serious gaming, and action-oriented research),  perspectives of various stakeholders (a wide range of law enforcement officers, policymakers, private companies, (potential) perpetrators, (future) port employees, young people, etc.), as well as a focus on multiple locations (the port of Rotterdam as a hub, connected to source countries, neighborhoods in Rotterdam, and the hinterland). FORT-PORT also connects with the Resilient Delta Initiative of the EUR, TU Delft and Erasmus MC convergence. For Erasmus School of Law, four PhD students and two postdoc researchers will be associated with this project. 

Karin van Wingerde is delighted with the opportunities offered by this grant: "Because we now have the opportunity to look at the phenomena of cocaine trafficking and human smuggling and the governance approaches against it for a longer period of time, we can map whether and how the approaches align with the phenomena and what are potential mismatches between the two. This ultimately allows the consortium partners responsible for tackling subversive crime in the Port of Rotterdam to focus on the right things.”

The study will start in September 2023 and will last 4.5 years.

More information

Read more information on the project here in the press release of the NWO.

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