The director of Maritime Analysis Operations Centre has said the level of drug seizures has increased, with half a billion euro worth of drugs seized since March.

Michael O'Sullivan, a former assistant commissioner with An Garda Síochána, said there was a feeling that law enforcement agencies were "distracted" by lockdowns in Europe.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr O'Sullivan said organised crime groups are looking for new opportunities and ways to transport drugs "under the radar".

A total of seven vessels have been seized in different parts of Europe, he said, or heading in the direction of Europe.

He said that these are large shipments of drugs and any one seizure of these drugs would not ordinarily be seized in Ireland in five or six years.

Mr O'Sullivan said that organised crime groups are challenged with the closure of ports and so therefore are putting drugs on their own, non-containerised, vessels.

He explained that various criminal groups are pooling money into a consortium and bringing large amounts of drugs over on a vessel. Then when it reaches land it is sub-divided and distributed.

He added that once the drugs reach land "it is almost impossible to seize the same quantity back" and the only way to disrupt the distribution, is to seize the drugs before the boats reach land.

Mr O'Sullivan said that criminal groups from Ireland, Germany and Italy are "very much involved in these shipments".