Southeastern PA

US Customs seizes ship where huge cocaine load was found

'We found nearly 20 tons of cocaine'

PHILADELPHIA - U.S. Customs authorities have seized a cargo ship where agents discovered nearly 40,000 pounds of cocaine when the vessel arrived in Philadelphia last month.

U.S. Attorney William McSwain said Monday that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials obtained a warrant Thursday and seized the MSC Gayane.

"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," McSwain said. "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."

The cargo ship is owned by Swiss firm MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co.

McSwain said the ship is subject to possible forfeiture to the U.S. The value of the ship and its other contents hasn't been released.

MSC is one of the world's largest shipping lines in terms of containers. An email seeking comment on the ship's seizure wasn't returned Monday.

"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," said Casey Durst, CBP's director of field operations in Baltimore.

At least six crew members have been charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine aboard a ship. The federal investigation continues.

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