Brazilian Police Seize 1.5 Tonnes of Cocaine From Grimaldi Con/Ro

Courtesy Polícia Federal

Published Nov 8, 2023 6:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

Brazil's Federal Police have seized a consignment of 1.5 tonnes of cocaine found on board the Grimaldi con/ro Grande Amburgo at the port of Vitoria, a small city northeast of Rio de Janiero. 

Grande Amburgo arrived in Vitoria on Sunday. Before any stevedores came aboard for cargo operations, a team of 50 federal officers and 14 drug dogs swarmed the vessel. They found 52 bales of cocaine on board, hidden in two different locations. 

According to the police, authorities suspect that members of the crew had helped to haul the cocaine aboard the ship at some prior point during its voyage, based on the shape of the packages. Investigators suspect that the plan was to throw the bales over the side at rendezvous sites off the coast of Europe.  

Courtesy Polícia Federal

All 28 crewmembers were fingerprinted and interviewed, and the investigators collected genetic samples from the drug bales. "If someone [from the crew] is identified, they will certainly be arrested and the others will be allowed to leave," Federal Police superintendent Eugenio Ricas told local media. 

He added that the investigation will look into the identity of the drugs' shipper, the consignee and any smuggling logistics providers who may have been involved in the cocaine shipment. 

The vessel has since departed Vitoria and is under way for Rio de Janiero. The final destination listed on its rotation is Tenerife.

"Thanks to the professionalism of the crew of the vessel Grande Amburgo . . . a large quantity of cocaine was found hidden on board while the ship was sailing towards the port of Vitoria (Brazil)." vessel operator Grimaldi Group said in a statement.

The company said that its crewmembers had alerted authorities to similar drug discoveries on board in two previous port calls in recent weeks, once in Tenerife and again in Hamburg. "In all three circumstances, the police and customs authorities of the first port of call following each drug discovery, i.e., Tenerife, Hamburg and Vitoria, were alerted and subsequently intervened on board to seize the drugs and start the investigations," a Grimaldi spokesperson said. 

Grimaldi also emphasized its investment in counter-smuggling efforts, including a specialized in-house security department, anti-drug dog units for cargo control upon boarding, and enhanced video surveillance on board ships and in terminals.

Brazil is an export hub for cocaine smuggled out of Andean producing regions. According to the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, cocaine seizures at the busy port of Santos rose from just 450 kilos in 2014 to more than 27 tonnes in 2019, an all-time high. Most of the Brazilian export volume is intended for European customers, shipped directly using containers, hull attachments or onboard stowage, or via a rapidly-growing transshipment route passing through West Africa. 

At current Western price levels, wholesale cocaine is worth its weight in platinum. Traffickers have a substantial profit motive to smuggle it out of South American producing regions - where it is worth about $2,000 per kilo - to Europe, the United States and Australia, where it is worth $30,000 per kilo or more.