US cocaine bust largest in history

The US Customs has made the largest bust in its history after seizing around 16,000kg of cocaine off a container ship. Authorities say the haul is worth an estimated US$1.1b (NZ$1.67b).

Earlier in the week, authorities boarded the MSC Gayane at the Port of Philadelphia for a routine inspection when they detected anomalies in several containers.

A search using drug-dogs and an X-ray scanner detected a massive haul of drugs on board.

"Laid end to end, all the bricks cover a distance of about two-and-a-half miles," said Casey Durst, from the US Customs and Border Protection. "Really, it's just incredible."

The vessel had reportedly made stops in Colombia, Peru, Panama and the Bahamas before reaching the US. The ship was then supposed to head to Europe with a stop in Rotterdam. The intended destination for the cocaine shipment is still unclear.

Six crew members have been arrested so far, and all have been charged with one count of knowingly conspiring to possess cocaine abroad a vessel in a US jurisdiction. They face a possible sentence of up to life in prison if convicted.

"You thought you could breeze to our port and leave with enough cocaine to destroy millions of lives without getting caught. You thought you were clever. You were wrong," said US Attorney William McSwain, whose office is handling the prosecutions.

"You underestimated the city, you underestimated our law enforcement capabilities, and you underestimated our commitment to decimate the evil and immoral drug trade."