U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it's investigating the source of a 2,133-pound cocaine shipment found inside a container load of scrap aluminum and copper at the Port of Savannah.
CBP officers discovered the cocaine on Oct. 29 during a non-intrusive inspection of the Europe-bound container after it was off-loaded from the ship. The container originated in South America, the agency said.
The officers removed 21 duffel bags containing a combined 818 bricks of cocaine, which had an estimated street value of $31 million, CBP said.
"In response to emerging narcotics smuggling trends and threats in the maritime environment, Customs and Border Protection has enhanced our enforcement strategy on targeting high-risk shipments from source narcotics nations that are either destined to ports in the United States, or that pass through sovereign United States waters," said Donald. F. Yando, CBP's director of field operations for Atlanta, in a statement.
CBP said no arrests have been made yet in connection to the cocaine seizure, but Homeland Security Investigations continues to investigate.
Since it is an "active and ongoing" investigation, CBP has not released the name of the containership at this time, an agency spokesman told American Shipper.
CBP noted that the cocaine seized at the Port of Savannah on Oct. 29 is the fifth-largest narcotics seizure made at a U.S. seaport in the past five months.
CBP's previous record for a narcotics shipment seized at the Georgia port was 1,280 pounds of cocaine in May. That cocaine, which was also in a container shipped from South America, had an estimated street value of about $19 million, the agency said.
On June 17, CBP made its largest seaport drug seizure ever at the Port of Philadelphia when it discovered seven containers carrying up to 39,525 pounds of cocaine on board the containership MSC Gayane. The drugs had a street value of about $1.3 billion.
Illegal drug shipments from South America are not only destined for the U.S. As previously reported by FreightWaves' Michael Angell in September, Europe has become a major destination for South American containers concealing narcotics. According to a June 2019 report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, a kilogram of cocaine in Europe is worth about 25 times its wholesale value in South America.
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