The drugs were found aboard a shipping container that entered the US from Buenaventura, Colombia, last month and have an estimated street value of $77 million.
The drugs were discovered at the port of Newark after authorities detected an irregularity in the pin used to close the shipping container doors, according to Special Agent Erin Mulvey with the New York division of the US Drug Enforcement Administration. “It was the pin that indicated something was off,” Mulvey told CNN.
Authorities opened the shipping container to discover 60 packages containing a white powdery substance that later field-tested positive for cocaine.
Mulvey said a legitimate shipment of dried fruit was behind the packages and that the drugs were likely loaded near a set of doors so as to be easily accessible to smugglers. The ship was headed next to the Belgian city of Antwerp.
Mulvey said it was not yet clear whether the drugs were intended to remain in the US or to continue on to Europe.
Officials from Customs and Border Protection seized the drugs and turned them over to agents from Homeland Security Investigations. The bust occurred on February 28 and is now under investigation by the DEA and Homeland Security Investigations. No arrests have been made.
“This is a significant seizure. In fact it is the largest cocaine seizure at the Port of New York/Newark since May 1994,” said Troy Miller, director of CBP New York Field Operations, in a statement. The seizure in 1994 contained about 6,000 pounds of cocaine, according to Mulvey.
The seizure involved multiple city, state and federal agencies, including the US Coast Guard, NYPD, and New York State Police.