Number of drug boats along Andalucian coast continues to increase; new route via Almería

by Lorraine Williamson
drug boats

Tehe patrol boats of the Guardia Civil and the Spanish Navy observed 558 speedboats in the area of the Strait of Gibraltar and the Andalucian coast in the first four months of the year. The number of drug boats continues to increase, and they are also more likely to choose a route other than the Strait of Gibraltar. This was reported by official sources from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior.

The large number of fast boats that have been spotted since the beginning of the year shows explosive growth. Drug traffickers are increasingly using these speedboats, the use of which has been banned in Spain since 2018. Not only do they use it to transport drugs from the Moroccan coast, but they also occasionally use it to transport illegal immigrants. Crew members are often able to work with impunity due to the lack of technical resources of the Civil Guard to detect drug boats.

Inflatable boats, go-fast boats and illegal immigrants

These are inflatable boats, up to 18 meters long, that can carry 20 people and 3,000 kilos of drugs. They are equipped with two or four powerful engines that consume 50 litres of fuel per hour. They can reach a speed of 130 kilometres per hour, which often allows them to flee in pursuit. Between January and April, the Guardia Civil carried out 419 observations of these vessels along the Andalucian coast.

In addition, Navy patrol boats detected a go-fast boat 139 times. In recent months, the Guardia Civil has intensified surveillance around the island of Alborán. This was necessary because of the increase in the activity of this type of illegal vessel. At the end of February, they discovered the arrival of 198 illegal immigrants on this islet, barely 600 metres long, halfway between the coast of Morocco and Almería.

Increase in number of drug boats

The presence of narco boats has increased dramatically, especially since Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska decided in September 2022 to disband the Guardia Civil’s OCON-Sur elite team, which had achieved numerous successes in the fight against drug trafficking in the Campo de Gibraltar.

Lack of resources in the police

The increased pressure on the police in the Strait of Gibraltar has caused the routes of the fast boats to move in the direction of Almería. The Civil Guard often does not have the necessary resources to track down the narco boats. Thus, the Mediterranean Sea remains one of the main routes through which hashish from Morocco enters the peninsula.

Network dismantled

Despite these problems, Spain and Portugal dismantled one of the largest narco boat networks in April. During a joint operation, they seized 10 boats, 4,000 kilos of hashish and 627 kilos of cocaine.

The so-called Operation Grajuela was carried out by the Policia Nacional, the Guardia Civil, the Customs Supervision Corps and the Portuguese Judicial Police. The network operated from Lisbon, although its main leaders came from Sanlúcar de Barrameda. A total of 19 people were arrested.

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