The Port of Philadelphia is the scene of a major cocaine bust, the second one involving a container ship operated by Mediterranean Shipping Company.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators said an inspection of shipping containers aboard the MSC Gayane “resulted in a substantial cocaine seizure in Philadelphia.”
The ship, which carries 10,776 twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) in containers, remains an active crime scene. The agencies made two arrests in connection with the bust, which occurred at the Packer Marine Terminal.
Both of those arrested were members of the ship’s crew, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for eastern Pennsylvania. But the identity of the crew members was not immediately released.
A tweet from the said 16.5 tons of cocaine was found inside the shipping containers. That would be worth an estimated $1 billion and make it one of the largest drug busts in U.S. history, according to NBC News.
In a statement, the CBP said it has yet to make a final tally of the haul and disputed those figures.
This will be the second bust of an MSC vessel at the Port of Philadelphia. In March, the CBP found just over a half a ton of cocaine located in a container onboard the MSC Desiree. The haul had a street value of $38 million, the CBP said.
MSC released a statement that it “has a longstanding history of cooperating with U.S. federal law enforcement agencies to help disrupt illegal narcotics trafficking and works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems,” it added.
CBP field seizures of cocaine peaked at 62,415 pounds during the 2017 fiscal year ending September, with the 2018 fiscal year seeing an 18 percent drop.
Seven months into the current fiscal year, cocaine seizures stand at just under 38,200 pounds.
The CBP was unable to provide any data on the preferred mode of transportation for cocaine. But container shipping appears to be making new inroads. The CBP said the March seizure on board the Desiree was the largest since 1998.
In March 2019, the Port of New York and New Jersey saw its largest seizure of cocaine at the port in 25 years. There, 3,200 pounds worth an estimated $77 million were found inside a shipping container.
In February, the CBP intercepted a shipment of 1,157 pounds of cocaine inside a shipping container originating in Colombia that went through the Port of Savannah.