MSC Joanna drug bust

Photo shows the small vessel back at shore. Photo: Australian Federal Police

MSC Joanna Involved In Major Drug Bust in Australia

Mike Schuler
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March 16, 2021

Authorities in Australia are investigating the smuggling of approximately 200 kilograms of cocaine that was offloaded from an MSC ship to a boat at sea off the coast of Australia.

A 27-year-old South Australian man has been arrested in connection with the seizure.

Officials allege the man launched a small vessel from Taren Point in New South Wales to rendezvous with the MSC Joanna off the coast of Sydney before sunrise on March 11.

The smaller vessel made its way back to shore before it was intercepted by officers with the New South Wales Police Force who discovered crates containing 199 blocks of cocaine worth an estimated street value of AUS $90 million.

The MSC Joanna was underway to Sydney, Australia from Belgium at the time. Following the arrest, police followed the MSC Joanna until it docked at Port Botany where they executed a search warrant.

An investigation into the incident is on-going and the suspect was denied bail in court.

“This arrest and seizure shows how quickly crucial information can be actioned into a successful operation with alleged offenders arrested and drugs prevented from making it to Australian shores,” said ABF Enforcement Operations East Acting Commander Garry Low.

“My message to criminal syndicates is not only will we find your drug concealments when they reach our sea ports and airports, but we’re also watching your movements before you reach Australia,” Low added.

The drug bust recalls a 2019 drug bust in the United States involving the MSC Gayane, where authorities found 20 tons of cocaine hidden in containers on board the vessel at the Port of Philadelphia. The drugs were apparently loaded from small boats at sea and several crew members were arrested in connection.

AIS ship tracking data showed the MSC Joanna underway of South Australia as of Tuesday.

The Panama-flagged MSC Joanna was built in 2006 and has a capacity of 9,200 TEU.

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