The Australian Border Force has warned international drug syndicates and passengers that there will be increased surveillance on cruise ships.
The warning comes after three Canadians were discovered on the Sea Princess attempting to smuggle 95kg worth of cocaine – the largest drug haul ever to be found on a cruise ship.
With an estimated street value of $30 million, the trio faces life sentences if convicted.
“These syndicates should be on notice that the Australian Border Force is aware of all of the different ways they attempt to smuggle drugs into our country and we are working with a range of international agencies to stop them,” assistant commissioner Clive Murray said.
“The operation has resulted in three arrests and we will not rule out further activity as we continue our investigations. The AFP is committed to working with its partner agencies to protect the community by stopping these dangerous drugs making their way to Australian communities, and bringing those responsible to justice.”
Melina Roberge, 22, Isabelle Legace, 28 and Andre Tamine, 63 were aboard the Sea Princess on a world trip which cost around $22,000 per person. The cruise called at a number of ports including French Polynesia, Chile, Ecuador and Bermuda.
The cruise also called at a number of South American ports including Colombia and Peru en route to Sydney.
The Australian Border Force searched the vessel which was docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal earlier this week.
Tim Fitzgerald, the regional commander for the ABF in NSW said that when officers initially searched one cabin, they found a suitcase containing about 35 kilograms of cocaine in numerous packages. When they searched another cabin, they found suitcases containing a further 60 kilograms.
“Sydney is highly attractive for cruise ships … so we’re continually risk-assessing the cruise ships and the passengers that come by air,” he said.
“This particular cruise ship – because of the nature and the amount of ports it had been to – was considered quite high risk in itself.
“Again the trick is, how do we identify those high-risk passengers in amongst the 1,800 people who are just coming here to enjoy Sydney.”
According to the Toronto Star, authorities within the Canadian Border Service and the US Department of Homeland Security shared intelligence ahead of the arrests.
They will remain in custody until their next court appearance on October 26.