MSC 11,600-TEUer likely to be forfeited in biggest-ever US cocaine bust
THE 11,600-TEU MSC Gayane, loaded with 18,000 kilogrammes (20 tons) of cocaine, was seized by US Customs and Border Protection upon its arrival at the Port of Philadelphia on June 18.
Legal opinion is that the ship will be confiscated. "The charterer is responsible for everything that occurs on the ship and returning it to its owner," Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co CEO Basil Karatzas.
Containers not implicated in the cocaine seizure, have been transferred to other MSC vessels. "MSC is assisting and cooperating in any possible way with the authorities and is not the target of the investigation," said the company statement.
MSC is likely to pay for the daily costs of maintaining the ship while it is arrested, Mr Karatzas said. He estimates that a docking fee that can cost up to US$2,000 per day and insurance costs upwards of $10,000 per day would have to be covered while the ship is under arrest.
Six crewmembers have been charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine aboard a ship in one of the biggest US cocaine busts in history.
According to US Attorney for the eastern district of Pennsylvania William McSwain, Customs and Border Protection officials obtained a warrant to search the ship owned by Mediterranean Shipping Company, reported New York's MarketWatch.
Mr McSwain said the Liberia-flagged, 2018-built, 11,600-TEU containership is subject to possible forfeiture to the US, and the federal investigation is continuing.
"When a vessel brings in such an outrageous amount of deadly drugs into Philadelphia waters, my office will pursue the most severe consequences possible," Mr McSwain said in a statement, reported New York's FreightWaves.
Mr Karatzas said a newbuild containership of Gayane's size would cost $150 million. In the second-hand market, the Gayane might fetch $100 million or more, he added.
The Gayane was chartered and operated by MSC, and the beneficial owner is JP Morgan's maritime investment arm.
"I am sure JP Morgan will be going after MSC if the US government arrests and auctions this vessel," Mr Karatzas said.