In mid-June, the United States Customs and Border Control raided one of the largest container ships in the world and found twenty tons of cocaine. It is said that the drugs found have a street value of over $1.3 billion.
The ship, the MSC Gayane, sailed out of the Bahamas after having been on a voyage that began in Chile and had ports of call in Peru and Panama. This week, the Gayane was seized by the U.S. government outright, and the shock of shocks when all the paperwork was done is what entity owns it. J.P. Morgan Asset Management. It turns out the ship was chartered by Mediterranian Shipping Company, an operation based in Switzerland, a landlocked country.
”A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented—but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented,” Mr. McSwain said. “When a vessel brings such an outrageous amount of deadly drugs into Philadelphia waters, my office will pursue the most severe consequences possible against all involved parties in order to protect our district—and our country.”
The ship is still in the Delaware River and will probably be there for a while. Eight members of the crew hailing from African nations were arrested in relation to the drug bust. This is also the second MSC ship to be found to be carrying drugs into Philadelphia this year. Other ships operated by the same Swiss concern have been found to be transporting even more drugs into ports such as Newark.
What is interesting is that the ships themselves are not what the people looking for drugs usually expect to see.
Ship executives, maritime lawyers and brokers said the case is unprecedented for the scale and age of the vessel.
“Historically, ships involved in criminal activity are older and beaten up,” said Basil Karatzas, chief executive of New-York-based Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co. “It is strange that such a modern and expensive vessel is involved in such a blatantly criminal case, like moving 20 tons of cocaine.”
It looks like the drug smugglers decided to change things up.