PHILADELPHIA - U.S. Customs authorities have seized a cargo ship where agents discovered nearly 40,000 pounds, or almost 18,000 kilograms, of cocaine when the vessel arrived in South Philadelphia last month.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain says Customs and Border Protection officials obtained a warrant Thursday and seized the MSC Gayane.
An affidavit alleged that crew members helped load the cocaine onto the MSC Gayane while it was at sea off the west coast of South America. Citing an interview with one of the crew members, authorities said a total of 14 boats approached the vessel on two separate occasions during its voyage. Several crew members allegedly helped transfer bales of cocaine.
Officials say the cocaine pictured is just a quarter of the drugs seized.
“A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented – but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented."
The Gayane, a cargo ship owned by MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co., was sailing under a Liberian flag. Five crew members arrested were ordered to remain in custody pending trial on drug conspiracy charges. A hearing for a sixth defendant will be held later.
An affidavit alleged that crew members helped load the cocaine onto the MSC Gayane while it was at sea off the west coast of South America.
McSwain says the ship is subject to possible forfeiture to the U.S. The value of the ship and its other contents hasn't been released.
MSC is one of the world's largest shipping lines in terms of containers. An email seeking comment on the ship's seizure wasn't returned Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.