US seizes cargo ship that contained 20 tonnes of cocaine

US customs has anchored a cargo ship in Philadelphia, after agents found 20 tonnes of cocaine on board last month.

It was been described as the biggest cocaine bust in US customs history and thought to be worth more than $1bn (£800m).

Officials say that if the cocaine bricks were to be lined up end-to-end, they would stretch for more than two miles (3.2km).

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 21: James Carroll, (C) director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), speaks about cocaine seized from a cargo ship at a Philadelphia port, during a news conference at the U.S. Custom House on June 21, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least 17.5 tons of cocaine with more than $1 billion in street value was seized at the Philadelphia seaport, being the largest cocaine seizure in the 230-year history of U.S Customs and Border protection. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
Image: The ship contained 20 tonnes of drugs

The MSC Gayane, which is registered in Liberia, West Africa, will now remain in Philadelphia waters while officers continue to seize drugs on board the boat.

Six members of the crew have since been arrested and charged for their alleged roles in bringing the drugs on board while the ship was off the coast of Peru in June.

US attorney Willam McSwain said the seizure was part of a process to “mete out” punishment to those involved.

He said: “A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented – but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented.

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“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.”

Casey Durst, the director of field operations in Baltimore for US customs said: “Seizing a vessel of this size is an unusual enforcement action for CBP [Customs and Border Protection], but is indicative of the serious consequences associated with an alleged conspiracy by crew members and others to smuggle a record load of dangerous drugs through the United States.

“This action serves as a reminder for all shipping lines and vessel masters of their responsibilities under US and international law to implement and enforce stringent security measures to prevent smuggling attempts such as this.”

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 21: A police officer walks near cocaine seized from a cargo ship at a Philadelphia port during a news conference at the U.S. Custom House on June 21, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least 17.5 tons of cocaine with more than $1 billion in street value was seized at the Philadelphia seaport, being the largest cocaine seizure in the 230 year history of U.S Customs and Border protection. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
Image: If the drugs were lined up, they would span two miles

MSC, which owns and operates the ship, has not responded to the seizure, but in a statement following the arrests, it said: “Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems.

“MSC is committed to working with authorities and industry groups worldwide to improve the security of the international supply chain and ensure that illegal practices are dealt with promptly and thoroughly by the relevant authorities.”

Cranes unload the freight ship MSC Gayane, after US authorities seized more than 16 tons of cocaine at the Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 18, 2019. - US authorities said Tuesday they had seized around 16 tonnes of cocaine with an estimated street value of over $1 billion in a historic drug bust aboard a ship at the port of Philadelphia. The drugs were found in seven containers aboard the MSC Gayane cargo ship, which was leaving for Europe after having previously called in Chile, Panama and the Bahamas, according to local media. (Photo by DOMINICK REUTER / AFP) (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: The ship is now anchored in Philadelphia waters

Speaking to NBC, a source alleged that the drugs were not destined for Philadelphia, but instead to the Netherlands and France.

As well as the drugs, the ship’s containers were filled with wine, paperboard vegetable extracts and dried nuts from destinations all over the world, which were destined to countries such as Ireland and India.

Source: SKY NEWS

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