15 Tonnes of Cocaine Seized Aboard Boxship in Philadelphia

MSC Gayane (file image courtesy Hafen Hamburg)

Published Jun 19, 2019 3:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

Federal agents at the Port of Philadelphia have seized 15.5 tonnes of cocaine from containers aboard the boxship MSC Gayane. It is the the largest drug seizure in the history of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, large enough to equal seven percent of the U.S. Coast Guard's cocaine interdiction total for FY2017. 

The 10,000 TEU MSC Gayane is assigned to the NWC - USA - SAWC rotation, and she called at ports in the Bahamas, Panama, Colombia and Peru prior to her arrival at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in Philadelphia. Local media reported that the shipment of cocaine was ultimately intended for delivery at the Gayane's next destinations in the Netherlands and France. 

According to charging documents, members of the Gayane's crew brought the drugs aboard during multiple rendezvous with small boats at sea, then concealed the narcotics in seven containers. Two crewmembers confessed to involvement and have been charged in federal court, including the Gayane's second officer, Ivan Durasevic.

"Upon leaving Peru on this current voyage, [Durasevic] 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," prosecutors alleged in charging documents. "Durasevic and approximately four other individuals . . . assisted in the pushing of the nets toward Hold Seven or Eight of the vessel."

Prosecutors allege that the chief officer and the ship's electrician were also involved in the scheme. 

In a statement, MSC said that it regularly works with law enforcement to address smuggling. "Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems. MSC has a longstanding history of cooperating with U.S. federal law enforcement agencies to help disrupt illegal narcotics trafficking and works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)," the line said. "MSC takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its services."