Mediterranean Shipping Company could forfeit a 10,766 TEU containership involved in a record cocaine seizure. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the cocaine had a street value of $1.3 billion. According to VesselsValue, the ship, the MSC Gayane is currently worth $84.26 million.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William M. McSwain reported yesterday that, on July 4, 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) executed a seizure warrant and seized the MSC Gayane as being subject to possible forfeiture to the United States.
On June 17, 2019, federal, state, and local law enforcement agents boarded the ship when it arrived at Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia and seized 19.76 tons of cocaine. Since that time, crew members of the MSC Gayane have been charged with knowingly and intentionally conspiring with each other and others to possess more than five kilograms of cocaine on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The federal criminal investigation is ongoing.
Authorities said MSC Gayane’s previous ports of call, prior to reaching Philadelphia, were the Bahamas on June 13, Panama on June 9, Peru on May 24 and Columbia on May 19.
As a result of this seizure, the MSC Gayane – a ship built in 2018 and measuring approximately two city blocks in length – has been placed under the custody of CBP and shall remain so until further proceedings or Order of the Court.
“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 tons of cocaine hidden on this ship,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “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.”
REMINDER TO SHIPPING LINES AND MASTERS
“The MSC Gayane is the largest vessel seized in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s 230-year history and follows the record seizure of almost 20-tons of cocaine discovered on the vessel,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Director of Field Operations in Baltimore. “Seizing a vessel of this size is an unusual enforcement action for CBP, 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 U.S. and international law to implement and enforce stringent security measures to prevent smuggling attempts such as this.”