Authorities found $1.3 billion of cocaine onboard the MSC Gayane when it docked at the Port of Philadelphia on June 17, 2019. The ship has been seized by the U.S. government as part of an ongoing international investigation. Six crew members from the ship face drug smuggling charges.
U.S. Customs officials at the Port of Philadelphia have taken the uncommon measure of seizing the cargo ship that was found last month carrying nearly 20 tons of cocaine, authorities said Monday.
An inspection of the MSC Gayane on June 17 resulted in the discovery of 39,525 pounds of cocaine stored in seven shipping containers. The drugs were given an estimated street value of $1.3 billion.
On July 4, Customs & Border Protection officials executed a search warrant of the ship that led to its seizure under the direction of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“The MSC Gayane is the largest vessel seized in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s 230-year history and follows the record seizure of almost 20-tons of cocaine discovered on the vessel,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s director of field operations in Baltimore. “Seizing a vessel of this size is an unusual enforcement action for CBP, but is indicative of the serious consequences associated with an alleged conspiracy by crewmembers and others to smuggle a record load of dangerous drugs through the United States."
U.S. Attorney William McSwain called the seizure of the vessel "unprecedented," but added the action was appropriate given the circumstances of the case.
Re: update on cargo onboard MSC Gayane, voyage NX922R, NWC-USA-SAWC service; MSC services in the USA
This is an update following the recent law enforcement drug trafficking operation on MSC Gayane in Philadelphia.
As a result of that operation, MSC Gayane has been under U.S. government control since 17 June while the authorities conduct investigations. MSC is assisting and cooperating in any possible way with the authorities and is not the target of the investigation.
How does this affect cargo on this voyage?
MSC Gayane was en route to northern Europe at the time of the incident, with calls scheduled at Rotterdam, Antwerp and Le Havre. Aside from a small number of containers, which have been held by the authorities as part of their ongoing investigations, all cargoes on the MSC Gayane have been transshipped to other MSC vessels and sent on to their respective destinations.
Your local MSC representative will inform you proactively by sending you Notices of Arrival with the updated ETA of your cargo, but please feel free to contact your local MSC office for more information if you wish to.
MSC regrets this delay and thanks you for your patience. Please understand however that we must follow the instructions of the authorities when such serious abuses of our services are being investigated, whether in relation to the vessel or its cargo.
What about other MSC services?
Our NWC-USA-SAWC service is functioning normally and all other MSC services are calling at U.S. ports as usual.
You may have seen that MSC’s C-TPAT certification was temporarily suspended following the incident. We are actively seeking to assure the authorities that our certification can be reinstated as soon as possible.
Notwithstanding this temporary status, MSC continues to comply with all the requirements of the C-TPAT programme and security criteria for ocean carriers including, but not limited to, the screening of customers, maintaining container and vessel security, and the vetting of employees, agents and business partners in accordance with C-TPAT requirements.
Drug trafficking is a serious issue which impacts the entire shipping and logistics sector. MSC remains grateful to the government officials in the U.S. for their proactive work and has offered its continued support, building on a longstanding track record of good cooperation with the authorities.