Federal police in the US have seized 16.5 tonnes of cocaine from a cargo ship docked in Philadelphia which was bound for Europe.
The drugs, said to have a street value of more than $1 billion, were seized from containers aboard the MSC Gayane, which arrived at the Packer Marine Terminal on Monday following a port call in Colombia.
Shipping records reveal the MSC Gayane also made stops in Peru, Panama and the Bahamas before making its way to the US, as reported by ABC News.
The ship’s crew were arrested and charged by federal officers, and an investigation into the drugs raid has now begun, according to the US Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania.
The incident is the latest in a number of cocaine busts taking place along the East Coast.
In February, customs at the Port of New York and New Jersey seized 3,200 pounds of cocaine, with a street value of $77 million, in the largest bust seen at the port since 1994.
Then in March, drug dogs sniffed out 1,185 pounds of the substance, worth around $38 million, in Philadelphia, in the city’s largest seizure in more than two decades, until now.
Experts have claimed the recent surge in cocaine trafficking is largely down to the excess supply found in Colombia, where efforts to eradicate the production of the drugs have been more relaxed in recent years.
The cocaine batches are thought to contain a dangerous combination of cocaine and the powerful opioid fentanyl, creating an entirely new demand for the drugs.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl was detected in a third of all cocaine-related overdose deaths in Philadelphia in 2017, a huge increase from the year prior.
Fentanyl, which is said to be ‘deadlier than heroin’, affects the brain by changing how your body responds to pain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the drug is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and many times that of heroin.
Perhaps most worryingly is the fact most people don’t even know their drugs are laced with fentanyl, which could be the reason so many overdoses have been reported in recent years.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining the LADbible Group team in 2017.