More than $1 billion worth of cocaine has been seized at the Philadelphia Port on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. They say the drug bust netted approximately 16.5 tons of the narcotic from a cargo ship docked at the Packer Marine Terminal. It is the largest coke bust in history in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, CBS Philadelphia reported, and the third largest in U.S. history, a senior official at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) told CBS News.
Federal authorities are searching the cargo ship, the MSC Gayane, and are continuing to investigate. The DEA official said the ship originated from Chile and traveled through Panama and the Bahamas. Two members of the crew have been arrested and face federal charges, according to The Associated Press.
CBS Philly reported agents boarded the vessel, found the container in question, inspected it and removed it from the vessel. It has been taken to an undisclosed federal facility for investigation. The station noted that there is a possibility authorities may find more drugs in other containers.
The ship's second mate, Ivan Durasevic, and another crew member, Fonofaavae Tiasage, were charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine aboard a ship, according to the AP. An online court docket did not list attorneys for the defendants. It wasn't clear whether other crew members would face charges.
U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania tweeted that "this is one of the largest drug seizures in United States history" and "This amount of cocaine could kill millions — MILLIONS — of people."
The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) said they're taking "this matter very seriously," according to a company statement.
"Mediterranean Shipping Company is aware of reports of an incident at the Port of Philadelphia in which U.S. authorities made a seizure of illicit cargo. MSC takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its services," the statement reads. "Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems. MSC has a longstanding history of cooperating with U.S. federal law enforcement agencies to help disrupt illegal narcotics trafficking and works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)."
In March, federal agents announced that approximately, was seized at the Port of New York and Newark. A shipping container entering the U.S. had 60 packages containing a white powdery substance inside of it. A field-test revealed the packages tested positive for cocaine.
"This apprehension is the second largest cocaine seizure at the Port of New York/Newark, and the largest in nearly 25 years," Customs and Border Patrol wrote at the time.