OVER 108 tonnes of illegal refrigerant has been seized by customs officers around the world in a special operation code-named Sky-hole Patching II.
The joint operation by the World Customs Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) over a six month period ending in November led to the confiscation of more than 7,500 cylinders of CFCs, HCFCs and other ozone depleting substances. Also included in the seizures were 668 pieces of equipment containing ODS.
Congratulating those involved with the operation, Rajendra Shende, head of UNEP's division of technology, industry and economics (DTIE) OzonAction Branch, said: 'In the 2000s, illegal trade in ODS was reported to have been worth around $60m- equivalent to 10-20% of global legitimate trade.'
Built on the success of Project Sky-Hole Patching I which saw 21 Customs administrations in the Asia/Pacific region seize over 700 tonnes of ODS in 301 incidents between September 2006 and September 2009, Project Sky-Hole Patching II saw over 80 countries pledge their commitment to participating in the project, making it a truly global event.
While a number of seizures were reported from Europe, Africa and Central Asia, the majority of seizures took place in the Asia/Pacific region, notably in China, Thailand, Hong Kong, China and India.
Two significant seizures were a total of 1,200 cylinders of ODS by Thai customs officials and the prevention of the export of 44 tons of HCFCs in two incidents by French customs.
Organised crime has been implicated in much of the smuggling, a good example being the seized shipment in the Gambia of several dozen cylinders of CFCs and two tonnes of cocaine smuggled from South America.