MSC forks out $50m to get cocaine-bust ship trading again

The MSC Gayane is sailing towards the Netherlands after its operator forked out $50m to free the boxship a month after US authorities found $1.3bn of cocaine onboard.

Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) has posted a $10m security deposit and a $40m surety bond. The firm has also agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of US courts while the Justice Department’s investigation continues into the 18 tonne cocaine find, the largest in US history.

Six crewmembers have been arrested in Philadelphia in connection with the drugs find.

The agreement struck between MSC and the US authorities also requires MSC to return the ship to an American port within 90 days should a judge enter a final forfeiture against the MSC Gayane.

According to court documents seen by Splash last month, 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.

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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