MSC: Bloomberg gets it wrong on MSC Gayane coke bust storyWritten by Nick Blenkey
Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) says it is “aware of” a mid-December 2022 Bloomberg media story about the 2019 incident in which the 10,766 TEU MSC Gayane became the largest vessel ever seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection. The seizure came after the discovery of nearly 20 tons of cocaine, said to have a street value of $1.3 billion, aboard the vessel. The ship was subsequently released on bond after $10 million cash and a $40 million surety bond were paid by MSC and the vessel’s owner, JP Morgan Asset Management.
MSC says that most of the elements in the Bloomberg story have already been publicly reported during the 3 1⁄2 years since the incident and that its Victim Impact Statement related to the incident is filed in court.
MSC says that most of the elements in the Bloomberg story have already been publicly reported during the 3 1⁄2 years since the incident and MSC’s Victim Impact Statement related to the incident is filed in court.
The cocaine trade has been surging in recent years and this is an industry-wide issue, says MSC. All modes of transport, from ships to trucks, trains and planes, are subject to the threat of illicit trafficking and as long as consumption continues, supply through international drug cartels will persist.
“Shipping lines and their staff are neither mandated, resourced nor trained to confront the dangerous individuals who operate organized criminal organizations,” continues MSC.
“The traffickers behind the MSC Gayane incident used groundbreaking methods to smuggle their drugs and the operation could not have been foreseen or predicted by any honest shipping operator. MSC, like others in the liner shipping industry, remains firmly opposed to this illegal trade and actively takes steps to counter the criminals’ new techniques.
MSC strongly objects to Bloomberg’s headline claim that the subversion of a small number of seafarers from Montenegro, in what remain very specific circumstances, amounts to the ‘company’ being ‘infiltrated’ by a drugs cartel.
“Montenegro has a long tradition of seafaring. The majority of its crew are honest, good at their job and work hard to earn a living for themselves and their families. All contractors to MSC passed through a robust vetting procedure that included the U.S. C-1/D visa for all Montenegrins who would call at U.S. ports. While MSC’s precautionary response to the Gayane drug seizure was to reallocate its Montenegrin contractors away from shipping routes that are most vulnerable to drugs trafficking, the company takes issue with the article’s overall characterization of one country’s maritime workforce based on the emergence of a tiny minority of criminals among them.
“Unfortunately, there will always be individuals who can be corrupted by drugs traffickers – or, even more difficult to predict, decent people who will succumb to violent threats by dangerous criminals against them and their families. This is a human factor which is impossible for individual companies to control entirely.”
MSC says the 2019 incident was “certainly a wake-up call for the entire container shipping and logistics industry, given the elaborate nature of the underlying criminal activity.”
Since the Gayane incident, MSC has significantly intensified its own security efforts, investing far in excess of $50 million in 2022, and says there are now more than 50 different ways in which it seeks to detect potential illicit activity across major trade lanes, including state-of-the-art and proprietary technology based on artificial intelligence, in close cooperation with law enforcement bodies.
MSC notes that it will continue to constructively assist governments around the world wherever it can and remains an active partner of the U.S. C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism) initiative.