15,500 Kilos of Cocaine, Worth $1 Billion Officials Say, Seized at Philadelphia Port
Shipping containers full of illegal drugs have been found and seized by federal authorities at a Philadelphia port, federal officials confirm. It is the largest drug seizure in the region’s history.
A senior law enforcement official said more than 15,500 kilos of cocaine has been seized from seven containers, which were found aboard a cargo ship, the MSC Gayane, that previously stopped in Colombia, Chile, Panama and the Bahamas.
The bust occurred at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal Port on the Delaware River in South Philadelphia, multiple local, state and federal law enforcement sources have told NBC10.
Members of the ship’s crew have been arrested and charged with federal drug trafficking charges, the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania said in a tweet.
The massive cache of drugs could have a street value of $1 billion, the U.S. Attorney’s Office also tweeted. The office characterized the seizure as the largest in the Philadelphia region’s history.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain said the ship contained enough cocaine to “kill millions of people.”
Investigators believe the ship was loaded with drugs after it left its last port of call in the Bahamas, the senior law enforcement said. After a stop in Philadelphia, the ship was scheduled to stop at ports of call in Europe, including in France and The Netherlands.
The Gayane was built in 2018 and flies a flag of the African country of Liberia, according to shipping records. It moored in Philadelphia at 5 a.m., Monday, the records show.
The records show that the Gayane’s previous stops included Freeport, the Bahamas on June 13, Cristobal, Panama on June 9, Cristobal, Panama, on May 24 and Buenaventura, Colombia, on May 19.
A message was left for MSC, which is short for Mediterrean Shipping Company, at their European headquarters. The international company has 54 cargo ships in its fleet.
Officials with Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration are involved in the investigation, which one official described as “massive.”
The Packer Avenue site is the largest along the Delaware River, where dockworkers unload huge container ships from overseas. Seven unloading cranes at the location owned by Holt Logistics rise along the river just south of the Walt Whitman Bridge. The shipyard has a capacity to unload 14,000 20-foot containers from cargo ships.
In March, $77 million in cocaine was seized at the Port of New York and New Jersey in what officials described at the time as the largest such bust at that port this century.
Earlier this year, a $38 million seizure took place at the Port of Philadelphia.