The MSC Gayane drug smuggling case is back in the news:
Now with even more Cocaine than before:
This sounds a bit unbelievable.
The whole crew, incl. Master, must have been involved in such operation and had knowledge of the content of individual containers.
To carry out the transfer from small speed boats at night the ship would have to stop, or at least slow down. Carried out “near the coast and ports” that would have been noticed on AIS and should raise questions.
Besides, to pick up tons of anything from a small boat at sea and at night would be quite difficult, even in perfect conditions and a AHC crane.
The MSC Gayane is a gearless container ship without any cranes, except maybe a small provision crane:
That the cocaine had been placed in the containers somewhere else by somebody with access to the containers during stuffing, or transport to the port and info on destination sounds more feasible to me.
That is an understatement that was well covered on this site at the time it happened.
The question that remains is how and why did MSC get away with not having the ship seized and the crew detained when the smuggling was discovered? It shouldn’t take a career mariner to conclude that the transfer could never occur at sea without everyone onboard having knowledge of the activity.
I don’t think MSC management planned and executed the smuggling operation but since fewer than a handful of sailors were arrested and the ship sailed profitably away from the crime one has to wonder what kind of magic pipe conveyed the company and its ship away from any responsibility.
The U.S. government seizes and sells drug smuggling boats on a regular basis, most of which carried only personal use quantities when compared to the Gayane’s 20 ton, $1 billion haul.
If any of us got caught with a single gram of cocaine in our car it would be seized and auctioned while we sat in jail waiting trial.
That cocaine and other drugs are smuggled in containers are well documented, but it is far fetched to believe that the owner and/or operators/charterers of the ships are in any manner involved in the smuggling operation and have any way of knowing if any undeclared items were placed in the containers they carry.
PS>The problem of undeclared items in containers are a well known cause of container fires.
PPS> Nobody declare cocaine as part of the content in containers they ship.
Even the shipper and consignee MAY be totally ignorant of the extra cargo place in their shipment.
" On multiple occasions during the MSC Gayane’s voyage and while at sea, crew members including the defendants helped load bulk packages of cocaine onto the vessel from speedboats that approached the vessel in the middle of the night under cover of darkness. Crew members used the vessel’s crane to hoist cargo nets full of cocaine onto the vessel and then stashed the cocaine in the vessel’s shipping containers; they bent railings on the ship and pulled back doors on the shipping containers so they could fit the huge quantities of cocaine into the containers. After hiding the drugs among legitimate cargo, crew members used fake seals to reseal the shipping containers in which they had stashed the cocaine in order to disguise their clandestine activities and contraband."
Sounds like a ship full of operators to me.
"B. Common carriers are exempted from seizure and forfeiture while being used in the transaction of business as a common carrier, unless
under the Customs laws, it appears that the owner, at the time of the illegal act, either had knowledge of drugs being smuggled aboard his conveyance, or was grossly negligent in preventing or discovering the drugs, or failed to exercise the highest degree of care and diligence in the case of illicit drugs found in unmanifested cargo; or 2. under 49 U.S.C. 80303, the owner, conductor, driver, pilot, or other person in charge of the aircraft or vehicle, or the master or owner of the vessel, or the owner of the rail car or engine, consents to, or knows of the alleged violation when the violation occurs."
How MSC was allowed to operate the Gayane after the bust:
From the article below:
…After the June 2019 drug bust, MSC was suspended for 90 days from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “trusted trader” C-TPAT program.
The U.S. government also targeted the MSC Gayane with a forfeiture action. To release the ship, MSC placed $10 million in a CBP security account and provided CBP with a $40 million surety bond. It agreed to disclose everything it knew about any criminal conduct of its employees related to the smuggling incident, facilitate any interviews with MSC employees by U.S. authorities, and assist with serving subpoenas on any MSC employees inside or outside the U.S…
The fact that drugs are being smuggled by commercial ships, especially cocaine from South America to Europe, has been a known problem for some time and a big problem for ship owners, operators and charterers.
It is not limited to Container ships, although the way containers are transported and stored at both ends of the sea passage open for a lot of possibilities for placing and removing contraband from containers without any involvement, or even knowledge of any legitimate partners in the operation:
In South America corruption probably facilitate the placing of cocaine into containers, with or without the knowledge of the Shippers and/or the domestic transporter/port operator.
Here is an article about how it is extracted at destination:
Geez Bug, You’re working overtime to defend MSC on this deal. Obfuscating with an overload of verbiage that every reader is perfectly aware of does not change the fact that virtually everyone on the Gayane was aware of the crime as it progressed.
The other fact that is obvious is that MSC and its financial partners purchased an “indulgence” from the US government. No one else on the planet would have gotten away with the argument of “extreme commercial prejudice and other hardship” to prevent their arrest, imprisonment, and loss of the vehicle orother property the drugs were found in. Little folk simply and very quickly lose their property and go straight to jail for a very long time.
|IMO Number:|IMO 9770763||
|Ship UN Sanction:|Not on list||
|Owning/operating entity under UN Sanction:|Not on list||
|Type:|Container Ship (Fully Cellular) GEARLESS.
|Date of build:|2018-01||
Registered owner: MERIDIAN 7 LTD (
|Company name:|MERIDIAN 7 LTD|
|Company name (full):|Meridian 7 Ltd|
|IMO Company Number:|6061167|
|Company address:|Care of MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co SA , chemin Rieu, 12-14, 1208 Geneva, Switzerland.|
|Country of registration:|Bermuda|
German call sign
registered in Bermuda
Care of the company based in Geneva Switzerland.
That is the Texan way, the Dutch way is more “sophisticated”.
Agree!! That is what I said in the OP
But the fact that the whole crew knew and may even have been involved doesn’t mean that MSC as Charterer, or J.P.Morgan as the defacto Owner of the vessel, had any knowledge or involvement in the smuggling attempt. The US Attorney’s Office game to that same conclusion.
The MSC Gayane was only one of MANY cases like this and a major problem for international shipping, hence the lengthy posts and attachments.
It is a problem that will only go away if the demand for illegal drugs go away.
I guess this bears repetition - read #2 very carefully:
"Common carriers are exempted from seizure and forfeiture while being used in the transaction of business as a common carrier, unless:
under the Customs laws, it appears that the owner, at the time of the illegal act, either had knowledge of drugs being smuggled aboard his conveyance, or was grossly negligent in preventing or discovering the drugs, or failed to exercise the highest degree of care and diligence in the case of illicit drugs found in unmanifested cargo; or
2. under 49 U.S.C. 80303, the owner, conductor, driver, pilot, or other person in charge of the aircraft or vehicle, or the master or owner of the vessel, or the owner of the rail car or engine, consents to, or knows of the alleged violation when the violation occurs."