Multiple reports confirm Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia have seized a large cargo ship registered to a global shipping firm. The recent outburst comes after weeks authorities stormed a vessels cargo and discovered over 35,000 pounds of illegal substances with a total value of over $1 billion.
Officials labelled the bust in June at Port of Philadelphia as the biggest cocaine bust in the history of America. At the start of the week, authorities made public the U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized the cargo ship, MSC Gayane, after securing a search warrant. The container ship has a length approximately the size of three football fields which stretches 1,030 feet.
The U.S. Attorney for the Philadelphia area, Bill McSwain, said the ship would be held in custody of the court, but authorities gave no indication as to if further actions would be applied against Swiss-based Mediterranean Shipping Corporation, the ship's operator since prosecutors are still gathering evidence for the case.
Federal authorities have also not made any disclosure as to whether the U.S. government plans to permanently hold the ship until now authorities did mention they are given forfeiture proceedings. No accusation of any wrongdoing by prosecutors have been made against the shipping company MSC, but this year alone no less than three of the operator's ships have been searched by federal authorities.
Early in February, agents in Newark, New Jersey discovered around 3,200 pounds of cocaine located amongst one of its containers expected to be transporting mostly dried fruit. And in March, authorities made further discoveries of 13 large duffel bags filled with cocaine and shipped using an MSC shipping container.
The shipping operator is yet to make any response to the ship seizure, but earlier in June, MSC made remarks of taking the raids as "very seriously". Online ship tracker shows the cargo ship sailing under the Liberian flag before its arrival at Philadelphia in June. The vessel was also noted to had made stops at Bahamas, Colombia, Panama, and Peru. A six-member crew arrested during the June cocaine bust are currently facing a variety of charges which includes conspiracy to possessing cocaine on-board a ship bound by U.S. jurisdiction. As noted by the Philadelphia Authorities, the investigation is still ongoing.
Even though it remains mostly uncommon for the Justice Department to seize ships completely, it does occur occasionally. In May, prosecutors in Manhattan started a forfeiture arrangement against a carrier ship accused of illegal coal shipments from North Korea, an alleged defilement of international agreements. The global maritime protocols usually do not dictate that every cargo aboard cargo ships be separately examined as such inspections possibly will slow down the flow of business.