Thousands of employees in the port of Rotterdam will probably have to apply for a special certificate of conduct (VOG) to work in the port soon. The municipality of Rotterdam, Rotterdam port companies and the Ministry of Justice and Security are working on a special VOG for port staff to reduce drug smuggling involving port staff. Lieselot Bisschop, Professor of Public and Private Interests at Erasmus School of Law, has been investigating drug crime in the port of Rotterdam for years and explains in NRC what the so-called port VOG could look like.
According to Bisschop, the port’s security makes it almost exclusively possible to smuggle drugs with the help of port staff: “We see that physical and digital security are so good nowadays that it always involves cooperation in the port. Someone who knows things about the port, the surveillance, the locations of the containers.”
How strict the VOG will be and which workers must apply for one is unclear. At Schiphol Airport, all staff working behind customs are screened by the AIVD, but that will absolutely not be possible at the port of Rotterdam given the size of the workforce, says Bisschop: “That is neither feasible nor affordable.” What is feasible is a special VOG for port employees, as already happens in education, childcare and the taxi industry. Port employees would no longer be able to get an access pass to the port if they have a criminal drug history.
Will the new port VOG make a difference in the fight against drug crime? “It is a great example of public-private cooperation”, Bisschop believes. According to the criminologist, it could have a preventive effect. Still, estimating the measure’s effectiveness in advance is difficult: “Again, it is a barrier put up that could stop people with a drug history from working in the Rotterdam port.”
A disadvantage may be that the pressure on people who still have an access pass after introducing the VOG measure may increase says Bisschop: “You also have to deal with that. With training, for example: how should people deal with it if criminals pressure them? Employers need to keep talking about it.”
There is also a chance that drug criminals will avoid the port of Rotterdam if security becomes unavoidable. Bisschop: “At the same time, we see that not all trade flows can simply be diverted.”