Indian Customs Detains Bulker and Crew After First Discovery of Cocaine
Indian customs along with the police, drug authority, and security forces, are detaining the crew of a bulker while they investigate the details of a large shipment of cocaine found hidden on the vessel. According to media reports, it is maybe the largest cocaine seizure as well as possibly the first at the Paradip International Container Terminal on the east coast of India along the Bay of Bengal.
The suspicion is that they accidentally intercepted a drug shipment likely heading to Europe. Officials however have detained the crew for a fourth day as they work to determine if any of the 21 crewmembers from Vietnam were involved in the smuggling operation.
The incident began by accident on Thursday night, November 30 when the Debi, a 37,196 dwt bulker arrived from Indonesia and first went into the anchorage and then moved to the terminal in the Indian port. The 611-foot bulker is registered in Panama and managed by a company in Vietnam.
Cocaine packages were attached to the tops of the cranes with magnets (Customs Bhubaneswar Zone)
A dockworker who went aboard the ship to assist with the crane handling noticed suspicious packages and reported them to local customs officials. The authorities then boarded the ship to conduct an initial search investigating the suspicious packages.
“At first, the packets looked like an explosive device,” a customs official told the media. “But after they scanned the packets, it was revealed that it was drugs concealed in small rectangular packets.”
Customs reports they recovered 22 kg of cocaine with a street value of $26 million. The packages were attached to the top of the vessel’s cranes and secured with magnets according to the report. They said the packets were not fully visible from the deck.
They are trying to determine when the drugs were loaded aboard the vessel and what the destination was for the cocaine. The ship had been in the UAE and then Egypt before proceeding to Indonesia. It was making a stop in India before proceeding to Denmark with a cargo of steel plate.
The crewmembers and the ship continue to be detained while the investigation is proceeding. After the initial discovery, dogs were brought aboard the ship to conduct a more thorough search. Media reports are that while it is common to find smuggling of marijuana and other substances, this is the first large discovery of cocaine in the port.