The MSC Gayane is back underway to Rotterdam minus the nearly 20 tons of cocaine seized from the ship last month after the owner and operator posted a $50,000 bail for the release of the vessel.
United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, William McSwain, wrote on Twitter that his office had secured $10 million in cash and a $40 million surety bond from the owner and operator of the vessel in exchange for its temporary release pending a final resolution in the case. AIS data as of Monday showed the MSC Gayane underway in the Atlantic Ocean with a destination of Rotterdam.
The release of the ship comes after U.S. authorities found nearly nearly tons of cocaine hidden inside shipping containers on board the vessel after it docked at the Packer Marine Terminal at the Port of Philadelphia. The seizure netted 39,525 pounds of cocaine worth a street value of about $1.3 billion, making it the largest cocaine seizure in the 230-year history of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The drugs were allegedly loaded at sea from small boats in an operation involving several of the ship’s crew members, some of whom have been arrested.
MSC Gayane’s operator, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, has said it is cooperating with U.S. authorities on their investigation to the incident. The company reported previously that all cargoes on board the vessel that have cleared by authorities have now been transshipped to other MSC vessels and sent on to their destinations.
The Liberian-flagged MSC Gayane operates on MSC’s NWC-USA-SAWC service. Prior to arriving in Philadelphia on June 16, the MSC Gayane made port calls in Chile, Peru, Panama and the Bahamas. The ship’s final destination was ultimately northern Europe, with calls scheduled at Rotterdam, Antwerp and Le Havre.
Media has reported that the ship is owned by J.P. Morgan Asset Management.
On July 4th, he U.S. CBP executed a seizure warrant obtained by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and seized the MSC Gayane, with the possibility of being subject to forfeiture to the United States.
The federal criminal investigation is ongoing.
“A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented – but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented. We found nearly 20 tons of cocaine hidden on this ship,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “When a vessel brings such an outrageous amount of deadly drugs into Philadelphia waters, my Office and our agency partners will pursue the most severe consequences possible against all involved parties in order to protect our district – and our country.”
“The MSC Gayane is the largest vessel seized in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s 230-year history and follows the record seizure of almost 20-tons of cocaine discovered on the vessel,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Director of Field Operations in Baltimore. “Seizing a vessel of this size is an unusual enforcement action for CBP, but is indicative of the serious consequences associated with an alleged conspiracy by crewmembers and others to smuggle a record load of dangerous drugs through the United States. This action serves as a reminder for all shipping lines and vessel masters of their responsibilities under U.S. and international law to implement and enforce stringent security measures to prevent smuggling attempts such as this.”