Italian Police Find One Tonne of Cocaine Aboard Chinese Freighter

Guardia di Finanza
Image courtesy Guardia di Finanza

Published Jan 17, 2023 4:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

Italy's customs police have seized a major cocaine shipment from a Chinese multipurpose cargo ship at the port of Savona, the Guardia di Finanza announced Tuesday. 

The 60,000 dwt freighter Cosco Shipping Honor was searched in Savona when she arrived on a voyage from South America. Before calling in Italy, she had stopped in Santos and Paranagua, Brazil; Conchillas, Uruguay; and Santos once again. Authorities discovered one tonne of cocaine in bales aboard the ship and confiscated the drugs. 

Cosco Shipping Honor is a 2020-built freighter operated by a division of China Cosco, the world's largest shipping company by tonnage. As of Tuesday evening, the ship remained moored at a multipurpose terminal at Savona. 

Brazilian organized crime - in particular, the Primeiro Comando da Capital gang - is highly active in the cocaine supply chain for Western Europe, connecting Andean producers with consumers in Western Europe. Its smuggling route wends its way overland through the Amazon into Brazil, then onto unsuspecting ships at Curitiba and Santos.

In Europe, the drugs are purchased wholesale and distributed by Italian and Balkan mafia groups. Customs agents intercept dozens of tonnes of Brazilian-origin cocaine in Europe every year, and the numbers continue to rise.

For Italy's 'Ndragheta mafia - the largest organized crime group in the EU - the main Italian smuggling port is Gioa Tauro, which mafia groups helped finance and build in the 1990s, according to Insight Crime. In October 2022, Italian police seized four tonnes of cocaine and arrested 36 people - including port workers, officials and hauliers - in connection with drug shipments through Gioa Tauro (below).