In their search for drugs and illegal cigarettes, members of Customs NL’s National Deep Rummage Team go on board every type of vessel.

Bulk carriers, container ships, juice- and chemical tankers, ‘fruit hunters’, tugboats, fishing boats… Customs NL’s National Deep Rummage Team is familiar with every type of vessel. With two shifts consisting of thirteen and fourteen team members each, this unit inspects three to four vessels per week. The main purpose of their search work: the detection of drugs and cigarettes. However, they also look for weapons and ammunition, as well as illegally imported exotic animals.

“The Netherlands has numerous seaports – Vlissingen, Amsterdam, Moerdijk – but more than 80 percent of the time we are at the largest one: Rotterdam. When we head to work in the morning, we have no idea what the day will bring. Only once we are at the office do we get to hear which incoming high-risk vessel we will be checking. As soon as the relevant vessel is accessible, we board it in uniform. Two team members stand guard at the gangway to check that none of the crew members slip away. The team leader informs the captain of the purpose of the inspection and the procedure, and briefs us. We then get into our overalls.”

“Safety comes first in everything we do. After all, once on board, you might be exposed to a range of substances and gases. For example, one must be careful around ventilation pipes, from which noxious fumes could escape. For this reason, we wear a protective suit, a hard hat and safety shoes. A special meter registers the oxygen content and the carbon monoxide levels and sounds an alarm when the concentration of toxic substances in the air is too high. We also have a walkie-talkie for contact with colleagues, a service pistol, handcuffs and three flashlights. Furthermore, everyone has a range of tools on them, including a square box socket wrench, an adjustable wrench, screwdrivers and keys with which to open electrical cabinets.”

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