Huge Cocaine Seizure

Authorities search a container along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. U.S. authorities have seized more than $1 billion worth of cocaine from a ship at a Philadelphia port, calling it one of the largest drug busts in American history. The U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia announced the massive bust on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon. Officials said agents seized about 16.5 tons (15 metric tons) of cocaine from a large ship at the Packer Marine Terminal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — U.S. authorities seized more than $1 billion worth of cocaine Tuesday from a ship at a Philadelphia port, calling it one of the largest drug busts in American history.

The U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia announced the massive bust on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, saying law enforcement agents seized about 16.5 tons (15 metric tons) of cocaine from a large ship at the Packer Marine Terminal. Members of the crew were arrested and face federal charges.

Agents with dogs swarmed the colossal container ship Tuesday afternoon, including one officer who could be seen climbing into the back of a large red container on wheels.

The drug seizure is the latest in a series of large cocaine busts along the East Coast. In a March bust in Philadelphia, drug dogs sniffed out 1,185 pounds (538 kilograms) of cocaine worth about $38 million — at that time the city's largest seizure of the drug in more than two decades.

In February, customs agents seized 3,200 pounds (1,451 kilograms) at the Port of New York and New Jersey with a street value estimated at $77 million. That was the largest cocaine bust at the ports since 1994.

Associated Press photos of the seized ship in Philadelphia showed its name as MSC Gayane. Online ship trackers said it sails under the flag of Liberia and arrived in Philadelphia after 5 a.m. Monday. The ship's previous ports of call were the Bahamas on June 31, Panama on June 9, Peru on May 24 and Colombia on May 19, records show.

Federal authorities say Colombia is the primary supplier of cocaine to the U.S.

An email was sent to the ship's registered owners seeking comment.

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Michael Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania.

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