Australia Seizes Cocaine Hidden on Buses Imported on Car Carrier

cocaine smuggling
Australia seized 139 kg of cocaine smuggled in buses on a car carrier (ABP)

Published Feb 6, 2024 7:20 PM by The Maritime Executive


Australia’s Federal Police and Border Force are reporting the second largest cocaine seizure ever made in South Australia arriving in a usual manner hidden inside luxury buses being imported aboard a car carrier. Police officials displaying their seizure said it was part of the continuing flow of drug shipments and came a year after the largest-ever seizure in Australian history.

“Cocaine shipments are being seized at the nation’s borders at unprecedented levels as Australia confronts a global surge in trafficking,” said Australian Border Force Superintendent Andrew Dawson.

The investigation began in January with reports that cocaine might be destined for Australia on a car carrier bound for Fremantle and then on to Adelaide. The police code named the operation Silkwood, tracking the unnamed car carrier.

The Australian Broadcasting Network is identifying the vessel as the Gracious Ace, a Japanese-owned vehicle carrier operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines. The vessel operates regularly between Singapore and Adelaide with a stop in Fremantle. It has a capacity of 6,400 vehicles.

When the vessel reached Fremantle on January 28, the police searched a shipment of 13 luxury buses. Dogs were used to sweep the buses and they reported finding a total of 139 packages wrapped in plastic and hidden in various void spaces inside the buses. The dogs signaled it was drugs and testing confirmed cocaine.

The vessel continued to Adelaide where the buses were offloaded and stored. On February 3, they arrested two men, aged 22 and 29, in a local hotel after they broke into the buses to retrieve the packages. They appeared in court yesterday on charges of “attempting to possess a commercial quality of cocaine.” They face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted.

“This seizure of the 139kg of cocaine has stopped a potential 695,000 individual street deals from hitting our streets and causing significant harm to our communities and economy, with an estimated street value of A$45 million (US$29 million),” said AFP Detective Superintendent Melinda Adam. 

The police are still investigating the crime and trying to determine the origin of the drugs. They are also investigating possible “out of the ordinary” movement in and around the port the day before the two men broke into the buses.