THE AUSTRALIAN Border Force has looked to consolidate their presence in regional coast areas in renewed efforts to target drug importations.

ABF on Wednesday (5 June) announced the opening of a new district office in Bunbury, Western Australia, to help officers with oversight of the expanding Bunbury port.

Officers would also patrol nearby areas such as Windy Harbour and Preston Beach.

ABF deputy commissioner Vanessa Holben said: “This presence helps to detect and disrupt criminality as our ports and vast coastline is regularly targeted by serious organised crime groups, seeking to import illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.”

Deputy commissioner Holben underscored the importance of public tip-offs and the role they play in protecting the border in regional areas.

“The public … know better than anyone what looks out of place, and one small observation can lead to a stopping a much larger border crime.”

The Bunbury announcement came on the same day the ABF declared it was conducting surveillance and intelligence operations at the Port of Portland in south-west Victoria.

The ABF vessel Phillip Island deployed a remote operating vehicle to screen ships hulls and void spaces detect below-waterline concealments of illicit drugs or other contraband.

The operations were part of what the ABF called an “enduring presence” in regional Victoria to protect the border, as the Phillip Island conducted patrols along the South-West Coast to Port Fairy, also completing a series of training exercises.

ABF superintendent David Bonnici said: “Australia’s border includes around 37,000 kilometres of coastline and more than 60 international seaports, many of which are in regional and remote regions like Portland”.

“Professional crime syndicates are always looking for new ways to beat the system, and current methodologies criminal groups are using include hull attachments and parasitic devices, mother/daughter ship drops at sea, use of trusted insiders for ‘rip-on/rip-off’ deliveries, couriers on cruise ships, and concealments in cargo containers” he said.

Mr Bonnici also emphasised the role the public plays in coastline visibility and halting illicit importations through communication with the ABF.

The dual announcements come only two weeks after 120 kilograms of ecstasy was found onboard a vessel in Fremantle.