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16 Dec, 2020 09:20

Charlie Celeste: Ghost ship laden with cocaine washes up in Marshall Islands after years on high seas

Charlie Celeste: Ghost ship laden with cocaine washes up in Marshall Islands after years on high seas

A ghost ship laden with hundreds of kilos of cocaine has washed up on the remote Marshall Islands, giving the tiny Pacific nation its largest ever drug bust.

The abandoned ship likely spent a couple of years drifting on the high seas before running aground on the atoll. It’s believed the boat drifted thousands of kilometers from Central or South America and mystery surrounds what became of its crew.

The country’s Attorney General Richard Hickson said the 5.5-meter (18-foot) fibreglass vessel was found at Ailuk atoll last week with 649 kilograms (1,430 pounds) of cocaine hidden in a compartment beneath the deck.


The drugs were in one-kilogram packages marked with the letters ‘KW’. Local police say they incinerated the illicit cargo on Tuesday, except for two packages which will be handed over to the US Drug Enforcement Agency for analysis.

Interestingly, it’s far from the first time debris from the Americas has washed up in the Marshall Islands. Drugs have been found along the shoreline of the sprawling islands chain several times in recent decades, but the latest haul was by far the largest.


The leading theories suggest the drugs are jettisoned by smugglers who are in danger of being caught or flotsam from boats that got lost in storms.

It’s not just drugs that wash up in the Marshalls; in 2014 Salvadoran fisherman Jose Alvarenga landed in the atoll more than 13 months after departing Mexico’s west coast with a companion, who died during the voyage.

In the aftermath of that incident, researchers conducted computer simulations of drift patterns from the Mexico coast and discovered that nearly all eventually arrived in the Marshall Islands.

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