MSC Gayane cocaine bust a historic high for US Customs

Having combed through the entire ship, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has revealed it found more cocaine onboard the MSC Gayane than originally reported, clocking in at just shy of 18 tonnes, a record haul in the United States with a street value of $1.3bn.

On June 16, the 9,962 teu MSC Gayane was raided when it docked at the US east coast port, having come from Colombia.

“Today, I can officially report that CBP has seized a historic amount of cocaine, in fact, the largest cocaine seizure in our 230-year history, with a weight of 39,525 pounds and a street value of about $1.3bn dollars,” Casey Durst, CBP’s director of field operations in Baltimore, said yesterday. “This is a momentous accomplishment for the CBP team here in Philadelphia – and highlights the importance of our critical homeland security mission.”

On Monday, six crewmembers arrested in connection with the raid appeared in a federal court.

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.

In the wake of the contraband find on the MSC Gayane, the CBP has temporarily suspended MSC’s Customs Trade Partnership (C-TPAT) certification, meaning US authorities for the time being do not assess the carrier as ‘low-risk’ so more scrutiny of its shipments can be expected in the coming days and weeks. MSC admitted in a client advisory earlier this week clients can expect “minimal disruption” from the C-TPAT decision. C-TPAT is a voluntary partnership between governments and carriers to ensure supply chain security.

Analysts at Alphaliner noted in a recent report any disruptions to MSC’s operations in the US would be highly detrimental to trade as MSC is the largest container carrier for imports into the US overall with a 13% cargo share and MSC is also the largest carrier for imports from South and Central America with a 17% share.





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.


  1. I wonder how much of this haul will mysteriously “disappear” while in customs/police custody?

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