Taskforce to target criminal activity on Port Kembla's wharves

Detective superintendents Mick Calatzis and Nick Bingham. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Detective superintendents Mick Calatzis and Nick Bingham. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

There is little doubt crime is happening on Port Kembla's wharves, according to the commander of the Polaris joint waterfront taskforce.

"Whilst in the last 10 years there's never been a drug seizure at Port Kembla, we'd be naive to think that drugs or other badness wasn't happening through the port," Detective Superintendent Nick Bingham said.

"It's just that there hasn't been a co-ordinated approach to it because there's so many different agencies that have something to do with Port Kembla."

Polaris was formed in 2010 to target serious and organised crime involving sea cargo terminals. It includes the NSW Police Force, Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Services and the Australian Crime Commission.

The NSW Crime Commission was previously part of the taskforce, but withdrew earlier this year.

Port Botany, the Port of Newcastle and Port Kembla are the three primary ports, but Superintendent Bingham said the taskforce paid close attention to ships right along the coast.

While a large chunk of the taskforce's investigations centre around Port Botany, they now have their sights set on tackling criminal activity at Port Kembla, including crime with links to outlaw motorcycle gangs.

"There's 5000 people at least with access to the wharves," Superintendent Bingham said.

"We know that the vast majority of these people are honest and not involved in criminality, but we also know there is an element that is involved in criminality.

"We also know there's a large element, and it's a cultural thing on the wharves and it's not particular to Port Kembla, a large element that won't report anything that they see; if they see some sort of criminality on the wharf the culture is they won't tell anyone.

"We want to try and change that culture and get in the faces of people doing badness and disrupt them."

Detective Superintendent Mick Calatzis, from the Australian Federal Police, said the taskforce would also be looking at organised crime taking advantage of opportunities on the Port Kembla waterfront and small craft and people that had access to vessels and their cargo before they came into the port.

The taskforce plans to co-ordinate with Lake Illawarra, Wollongong and marine police, customs and quarantine to regularly share information.

Items seized from Port Botany since the inception of Polaris

  • Firearms 10
  • Stun guns 3
  • Tobacco 114.8 tonnes
  • Cigarettes 93.7 million
  • Cannabis 13.25kg
  • Cocaine 58.8kg
  • Amphetamine type substances 121kg
  • Pseudoephedrine (precursor to meth) 75kg
  • Hypophosphorous acid (precursor to meth) 11 tonnes
  • Steroids 59kg
  • Total arrests 67
  • Total charges 258

Anyone with information should contact Customs Watch 1800 06 1800 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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