From the Editor: The Infiltration of MSC

Mediterranean Shipping Company

One of the dark underbellies of the maritime shipping industry that no one likes to talk about is smuggling.

But the weekly magazine Bloomberg Businessweek has taken on the problem head-on in an expose detailing how one of the biggest goods shippers in the world, MSC – Mediterranean Shipping Company – was infiltrated in recent years by Balkan gangs engaging in vast amounts of drug smuggling.

In recent years, officials have found that multiple MSC vessels were carrying drugs, and a $100 million ship, the Gayane, was seized by authorities after finding $1 billion worth of cocaine onboard.

This information and more is detailed in a three-part series on the infiltration published in print and online in recent weeks.

US and European authorities are currently investigating how vessels operated by MSC were infiltrated.

“One method of smuggling drugs onto a boat is to start on land, stuffing containers with contraband and hoping it goes unnoticed. Another, more complicated method is to get the drugs onto the ship while it’s underway,” Bloomberg reporter Brandon Sapienza recently wrote. “That’s what happened with multiple MSC vessels—part of a campaign that required the complicity of some company employees to make it work.”

“Speedboats carrying black duffel bags stuffed with drugs approached moving container ships, and crew hoisted the bags up to the deck with pulleys,” Sapienza reported. “The transfers in many cases took place on the open ocean, without ever actually stopping the ships.”

He also found that in the U.S., ships found to be hauling drugs rarely suffer serious consequences outside of monetary fines. However, he said, the latest revelations could be an inflection point for the industry.

Customs officials have been pressing MSC to pay more than $700 million in penalties, people familiar with the matter told Businessweek.

The series of stories is an in-depth look at an important topic that doesn’t receive nearly enough attention in the U.S. or globally. An overview of the series of stories can be found here:

It’s highly recommended reading.

Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at

By Mark Edward Nero