PHILADELPHIA (AP) — United States (US) Customs authorities have seized a cargo ship where agents discovered nearly 18,000 kilogrammes, of cocaine when the vessel arrived in Philadelphia last month, US Attorney William McSwain announced on Monday.
Customs and Border Protection officials obtained a warrant last Thursday and seized the MSC Gayane, owned by Swiss firm Mediterranean Shipping Company, McSwain said.
“A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented — but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented. We found nearly 20 tonnes of cocaine hidden on this ship,” McSwain said. “When a vessel brings such an outrageous amount of deadly drugs into Philadelphia waters, my office and our agency partners will pursue the most severe consequences possible against all involved parties in order to protect our district — and our country.”
The ship is subject to possible forfeiture to the US The value of the ship and its other contents has not been released.
MSC is one of the world’s largest shipping lines in terms of containers, and has not been accused of any wrongdoing. A spokesman for MSC said the company would have no immediate comment. At least six crew members have been charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine aboard a ship.
The federal investigation continues.
Gayane is at least the third ship in Mediterranean Shipping Company’s fleet to have been raided by US authorities this year.
In February, customs agents seized the largest shipment of cocaine intercepted at the port in Newark, New Jersey, in nearly 25 years — about 1,451 kilogrammes — from a container aboard the MSC Carlotta.
In March, law enforcement agents searched a container offloaded from the MSC Desiree at Philadelphia’s port and found 13 large duffel bags stuffed with 538 kilogrammes, of cocaine. At the time, it was the largest cocaine seizure at the port in over 20 years.
Company officials did not reply to questions on Monday about drug smuggling aboard the ships. Last month, MSC said in a statement that “unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems. … MSC has a longstanding history of cooperating with US federal law enforcement agencies to help disrupt illegal narcotics trafficking”.