Customs and Navy seize 7kg of cocaine attached to side of ship with electromagnet

  • 11/06/2024
The drug was found on a New Zealand-bound commercial vessel.
The drug was found on a New Zealand-bound commercial vessel. Photo credit: NZ Customs Service/Supplied

Authorities say 7kg of cocaine attached to the side of a ship has been intercepted off New Zealand's coast. 

The drug was found on a New Zealand-bound commercial vessel, New Zealand Customs and the Defence Force said in a joint statement on Tuesday. 

According to the statement, the joint operation took place in April. 

"As the vessel approached New Zealand, Customs maintained regular contact with the ship's captain and agents, working together to monitor the attachment and report suspicious activity," the statement said. 

"Customs, the Navy and the shipping line agreed on a plan to intercept the vessel approximately 50 nautical miles off New Zealand's coast using Customs' patrol vessel Hawk V. 

"The ship was escorted to a safe location just outside Auckland where Customs coordinated with Navy ordnance experts and divers, who used an uncrewed surface vessel and an aerial drone to monitor and inspect the box." 

Authorities said the box contained an electromagnet - which was holding it to the ship - and 7kg of cocaine with a street value of up to NZ$3.15 million. 

"The joint operation used a range of technology, including remote controlled equipment, to gather information about the attached box to ensure the safe removal and examination, which led to the cocaine seizure," Customs maritime manager Robert Smith said. 

"Customs works closely with our Navy partners and this operation was a great example of maximising each other's capabilities and tools to reach a positive outcome.  

"Our industry partners also play a big role in helping to keep our borders secure. We were helped by the shipping industry right at the start." 

The operation was an "excellent example" of authorities working "seamlessly together to combat narcotics smuggling", Navy maritime component commander Commodore Garin Golding said. 

"Our control room in Devonport provided a live-tracked, common operating picture to gather intelligence utilising a combination of uncrewed platforms and our professional personnel. It meant the operation was able to be coordinated remotely and achieved the best possible outcome."