PHILADELPHIA — U.S. authorities seized more than $1 billion worth of cocaine Tuesday from a ship at a Philadelphia port, calling it one of the largest drug busts in American history.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia announced the massive bust on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, saying law enforcement agents seized about 33,000 pounds (15,000 kilograms) of cocaine from a large ship at the Packer Marine Terminal. Members of the crew were arrested and face federal charges.
Agents with dogs swarmed the colossal container ship Tuesday afternoon, including one officer who could be seen climbing into the back of a large red container on wheels.
The drug seizure is the latest in a series of large cocaine busts along the East Coast. In a March bust in Philadelphia, drug dogs sniffed out 1,185 pounds (538 kilograms) of cocaine worth about $38 million — at that time the city’s largest seizure of the drug in more than two decades.
In February, customs agents seized 3,200 pounds (1,451 kilograms) at the Port of New York and New Jersey with a street value estimated at $77 million. That was the largest cocaine bust at the ports since 1994.
Online ship trackers said the vessel seized in Philadelphia, named MSC Gayane, sails under the flag of Liberia and arrived in Philadelphia after 5 a.m. Monday. The ship’s previous ports of call were the Bahamas on June 31, Panama on June 9, Peru on May 24 and Colombia on May 19, records show.
Federal authorities say Colombia is the primary supplier of cocaine to the U.S.
The ship’s owner, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co., said in a statement it was “aware of reports of an incident at the Port of Philadelphia in which U.S. authorities made a seizure of illicit cargo.” The privately owned Swiss shipping company said it “takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its services.”
Michael Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania.