Belgium launches 'Portwatch', hotline for suspicious activity at ports

Passers-by can now report suspicious situations in Belgian seaports via 'PortWatch', an anonymous hotline used by the police to map criminal activity. The tool was launched on Wednesday in Ghent, where much of the North Sea port is located.

Today, there are several hotlines that focus on specific forms of crime, such as drug smuggling. But this is not an efficient way of working, according to the services concerned. They have launched a cooperation project called 'Portwatch', which was presented at a press event in Ghent (East Flanders province) on Wednesday. The minister of Justice and the North Sea, Paul Van Tigchelt, made a first announcement and demonstrated how the website works.

Truck drivers passing through a port area can make a report in Dutch, French or English. Port staff, ship crews, recreational boaters or simply passers-by can also submit reports. Any observation that might indicate wrongdoing is useful, such as a hole in a fence or someone passing around an access pass.

Maritime Security Act

Last year, Van Tigchelt's predecessor Vincent Van Quickenborne already introduced a new law to better protect Belgian ports and ships from drug smuggling, terrorist threats, foreign interference, economic espionage and cybercrime. The Maritime Security Act aims to protect all infrastructure at sea and in Belgian ports from organised crime and anyone with bad intentions. The law covers the country's six seaports (Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Ghent, Ostend, Liege and Brussels) and 198 port facilities.

In addition, the European police organisation Europol has highlighted the need for cross-border cooperation in its joint report on the ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam (the Netherlands) and Hamburg/Bremerhaven (Germany).


#FlandersNewsService | Minister of Justice and the North Sea Paul Van Tigchelt © BELGA PHOTO JONAS DHOLLANDER

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New legislation to better protect ports from organised crime
A new law is coming into force to better protect Belgian ports and ships from drug smuggling, terrorist threats, foreign interference, economic espionage and cybercrime, minister for Justice and the North Sea Vincent Van Quickenborne announced on Monday.

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