US authorities warn they may not return MSC Gayane after $1.3bn drug bust

Three weeks on after the biggest cocaine bust in US history the ship at the centre of the scandal shows no sign of leaving American shores, with authorities warning yesterday the 9,962 teu MSC Gayane is “subject to possible forfeiture”.

On June 16 the boxship was raided in Philadelphia by the the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with a record haul of 18 tonnes of cocaine found with a street value of $1.3bn. Six crewmembers have been arrested as investigations continue with the ship anchored on the Delaware river.

US attorney William McSwain announced Monday that the ship could be taken by the US government permanently.

“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, adding: “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 MSC Gayane is owned by JP Morgan and VesselsValue lists it as worth $84.24m.

In the wake of the contraband find on the MSC Gayane, the third MSC ship busted for carrying cocaine in US ports this year, 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 weeks. C-TPAT is a voluntary partnership between governments and carriers to ensure supply chain security.

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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