New Zealand Customs Intercepts Cocaine Worth $7M in Shipping Container

Tauranga cocaine seizure
Courtesy NZ Customs

Published Sep 25, 2023 8:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

The New Zealand Customs Service has seized an estimated 26 kilograms of cocaine at the Port of Tauranga, with the police arresting three alleged offenders. The major drug bust happened as a result of an attempted early morning break-in at the Port of Tauranga, prompting port security to contact the police.

After the break-in, New Zealand customs searched 36 containers that were destined for Tauranga and Auckland. One search located a quantity of plastic-wrapped ‘bricks’ inside the refrigeration unit of a reefer container – a standard hiding place for “rip-on / rip-off” drug smuggling schemes. The contents were later confirmed to be cocaine.

Customs estimated the 26 kilograms seized would be worth nearly $7 million in street sales.

“A significant quantity of cocaine has been stopped from ending up in our communities. The result is thanks to close collaboration with our partners. The police were outstanding in their support,” said Paul Campbell, Customs Group Manager Maritime.

Campbell said that the agency is seeing an increase in drug-smuggling attempts into New Zealand, particularly via maritime routes. While over 80 percent of illicit drugs in New Zealand arrive by air, usage of sea transport has steadily rose since the Covid pandemic in 2020.

Early this year, the New Zealand Navy intercepted more than three tons of cocaine floating in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean after it was dropped there by an international drug-smuggling syndicate. The incident became the country’s largest-ever drug seizure, and the police believe the consignment was headed for Australia, where it fetches a high street price.