Millions of pounds worth of cocaine hidden below the water line of a container ship has been seized by police divers.
Drugs weighing 137kg (302lbs) were found on a Panamanian-registered ship carrying bananas at Sheerness, Kent.
The haul was likely to have had a UK street value of more than £10m, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.
The cocaine was found in four large holdalls in the sea chest, an intake area for sea water to assist stability.
The ship was destined for the Netherlands but, on the basis of information supplied by the NCA, specialist teams searched the vessel when it docked at Sheerness Port on 14 October.
The NCA said a Metropolitan Police Dive Unit took five hours to recover the drugs after an underwater search of the ship’s hull in reduced visibility.
It is one of only two underwater concealments of class A drugs of its kind ever discovered in the UK, the last being at Bristol in November 2021 when 46kg (101.4lbs) of cocaine was detected.
NCA operations manager David Phillips said it was an “extremely rare and sophisticated concealment”.
The crime agency said it believed the drug’s destination was likely to have been the Netherlands, and it was working with law enforcement partners there and in Panama.
Stephen Whitton, deputy director of Border Force Maritime Command, said: “The combined efforts of the NCA, the Met Police and Border Force, have prevented £10m worth of cocaine from plaguing our streets and countries nearby.”
A Met Police spokesperson said the underwater search required “detailed planning” to ensure a safe and effective diving operation.
“All of the teams worked collaboratively to manage the risks which included reduced visibility, tidal movements and depth of the water,” he said.
“All of those risks and more demonstrate the difficult working environment in which the teams were operating.”
Source : BBC