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Gibraltar Seizes Large Amount of Cocaine Hidden in Bulker’s Sea Chest

cocaine hidden in vessel's hull
Divers found large packages containing cocaine hidden in the vessel's sea chest (Royal Gibraltar Police)

Published Feb 9, 2023 11:57 AM by The Maritime Executive

Gibraltar’s Customs Service is reporting a significant cocaine seizure made by chance while a bulker was anchored in the bay bunkering after an Atlantic crossing. Officials declined to put a dollar value on the seizure while the investigation is ongoing but the media outlet GBC is reporting that it understands the drugs would have had a potential street value of more than $12 million. By comparison in 2021, the Royal Gibraltar Police recorded total drug seizures valued at approximately $26 million for the full year.

The Hong Kong-flagged bulker BBG Journey anchored in the bay late on Tuesday, February 7, to take on bunkers after a trip that began in Imbituba, a port in southern Brazil, on January 21. While at anchor, the 82,200 dwt bulker reportedly ordered a local company to carry out a routine inspection of the hull.

Divers surveying the 751-foot hull reported to the Gibraltar Port Authority, which informed the Customs Service, that they had observed what the police called “several anomalies” during their inspection. A closer examination revealed ropes protruding through a grill covering a sea chest in the hull of the vessel.

 

 

Customs sent the patrol boat HMC Sentinel to conduct a further investigation of the bulker. Divers searching the hull found six large packages hidden in the vessel’s sea intake box. The packages were brought to the surface and taken to shore. The police on investigation reported that the packages contained 172 kg of cocaine in multiple small packages.

A further search of the bulker was ordered and the crew was interviewed. Customs reports the bulker was released and today, February 9, the vessel is proceeding to Cartagena, Spain. Police investigators are still working to determine how the drugs were placed aboard the ship and their possible destination.

It is not the first time Gibraltar authorities have found drugs attached to the underwater sections of a vessel. In January 2021, a survey found a “parasite device” attached to the hull of another bulker in the anchorage. The device contained individually wrapped packages of cocaine, with a total weight of around 25 kilograms, with an approximate street value according to the police of approximately $2 million. In that case, they also interviewed the crew and released the vessel.