Maritime drug smuggling plot foiled
2 mins read

Maritime drug smuggling plot foiled

New Zealand authorities recently intercepted a shipment of cocaine magnetically attached to a ship’s hull.

New Zealand Customs and the Royal New Zealand Navy joined forces for the operation in April, but details of the operation were released on Tuesday 11 June.

Customs received information that a merchant vessel bound for New Zealand had a box attached to its stern that was not part of the ship’s structure.

As the ship approached New Zealand, Customs maintained regular contact with the ship’s captain and agents to monitor the seizure and report suspicious activity.

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

The ship was escorted to a location on the outskirts of Auckland, where Customs worked with Navy weapons experts and divers, who used an uncrewed surface ship and an aerial drone to monitor and inspect the box.

The box was removed and moved to a safe place on land.

It was found to contain an electromagnet that held it on the ship and seven kilograms of cocaine.

Authorities estimate the value of the shipment at up to NZ$3.15 million (approximately US$2.92 million).

Maritime customs manager Robert Smith said the joint operation used a range of technology, including remotely operated equipment, to gather information about the attached box to ensure safe removal and inspection.

“Customs works closely with our naval partners and this operation was a great example of each other maximizing their capabilities and tools to achieve a positive outcome,” he said.

“Our industry partners also play a big role in keeping our borders secure. The shipping industry helped us from the very beginning.

“This operation demonstrates the value of our strong international networks with other agencies, as well as global shipping lines, to prevent international organized crime from exploiting not only our population, but also our supply chains.”

Royal New Zealand Navy Naval Component Commander, Commander Garin Golding, said the operation represented an “exciting new step” in harnessing the benefits of uncrewed systems technology.

“Our control room in Devonport provided a shared operational picture, tracked live, to gather intelligence using a combination of uncrewed platforms and our professional staff,” he said.

“This meant the operation could be coordinated remotely and achieve the best possible outcome.”