$1bn worth of cocaine found on MSC ship

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co is once again at the centre of a huge cocaine bust at the Port of Philadelphia.

Authorities yesterday revealed they had found 16.5 tonnes of cocaine on the 9,962 teu MSC Gayane, which was raided on Monday morning when it docked at the US east coast port, having come from Colombia. The street value of the haul was estimated at $1bn, a record high for the city of Philadelphia.

Members of the crew were arrested and face federal charges.

According to court documents, second officer Ivan Durasevic allegedly admitted to his role in bringing the cocaine onboard the vessel.

“Upon leaving Peru on this current voyage, he got a call from the Chief Officer to come down to the deck, at which time he saw nets on the port side stern by the ship’s crane,” the complaint said. “Durasevic and approximately four other individuals, some of whom were wearing ski masks, assisted in the pushing of the nets toward Hold Seven or Eight of the vessel.”

Durasevic said he was paid $50,000 by the chief officer, who has not been identified.

Another crew member, identified as Fonofaavae Tiasaga, also allegedly admitted to partaking in loading cocaine on the ship, including on a previous voyage, the complaint said.

“Prior to departing on the voyage, the ship’s Electrician and the Chief Mate also approached Tiasaga and asked if he was willing to help again,” the complaint states. “According to Tiasaga, each of these four crewmembers coordinated individual loads of cocaine.”

The court documents also allege that at least twice while the ship was en route between stops in Chile and Panama, numerous smaller boats approached the MSC Gayane at sea to hand off large bundles of the illicit drug.

In March another MSC vessel, the 9,400 teu MSC Desiree, was raided when calling at Philadelphia and a stash of cocaine worth $38m was found onboard.

MSC said in a statement yesterday that it “takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its services.”


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


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