After three weeks, the MSC GAYANE is no longer seized by the US CBP. The ship had been seized due to a finding of 20 tons of cocaine while in the port of Philadelphia. The seizure was triggered on July 4 after the authorities found, crammed into 7 containers along with other goods, about 20 tons of drugs, with a market value of about 1.3 billion dollars. The attorney general of the Philadelphia district court, William McSwain, had announced that the MSC Gayane would remain in the custody of the CBP until further legal proceedings, and that the ship was also subject to “possible confiscation”. Subsequently, attorney general McSwain secured for release, $ 10 million in cash and $ 40 million in surety bonds from the owner and operator of the ship in exchange for his temporary release.
Subsequently the ship left the port of Philadelphia to head to that of Rotterdam, to resume normal initial rotation, on the basis of a new permit to operate temporarily. The possibility of a confiscation of the ship that could materialize if links between illicit trafficking and high-ranking members of the crew would still exist. According to press sources, including the Wall Street Journal, the owner of the ship, leased by MSC, would be JP Morgan Global Maritime, which would have recently taken over from SinOceanic Shipping. The online database Equasis instead assigns it to MSC as Ship Manager / Commercial Manager, while Meridian 7 Ltd is a Registered Owner, a company defined as “under the care” of MSC itself.
The agreement made by the prosecutor provides for the involvement of numerous other subjects, but would not involve JP Morgan, whose role is purely financial. MSC and Meridian 7 will have to cover insurance and maintenance costs and if the confiscation is decided, allow the ship to return to a US port within 90 days. According to the reconstruction of the Philadelphia Inquirer, six members of the crew, all from Eastern Europe or Samoa, would in fact be involved in the illicit traffic, and two of these would have already admitted their responsibilities, also explaining that cocaine would be introduced on board of MSC Gayane when it was sailing between Panama and Peru, transported there by 14 boats.
The company did not comment directly on the seizure order, but in a communication to the client he said he was “collaborating in every possible way with the authorities”, specifying that he was not “subject to investigation”. The CBP has temporarily suspended the MSC’s Customs Trade Partnership (C-TPAT) certification (the US authorities judge the carrier as “low risk”), which means that, until the continuation of the measure, in the coming weeks the controls of the shipments will be increased.