Three Canadians have been charged after the Australian Boarder Force found they trio had tried to smuggle 95kg of cocaine into Australia on the Sea Princess.

The ship, which was docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal was searched by sniffer dogs. The ABF allegedly found the cocaine in suitcases.

Tim Fitzgerald, the regional commander for the ABF in NSW said it was the largest amount of drugs seized at an airport or a cruise ship in Australia.

He also said officers initially searched one cabin where they found a suitcase containing about 35 kilograms of cocaine in numerous packages and then they searched another cabin where they found suitcases containing a further 60 kilograms.

Mr Fitzgerald said that this was not the first time an attempt was made to smuggle drugs on cruise ships.

“We had a similar situation last year … but this is the largest,” he said.

“Last financial year alone the Border Force intercepted 18,000 [attempted importations of] narcotics at our various borders, international mail centres, airports, sea ports, sea cargo, air cargo — 22.5 tonnes of narcotics … have been detected in two years.”

“Sydney is highly attractive for cruise ships … so we’re continually risk assessing the cruise ships and the passengers that come by air.

“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.”

The Australian Federal Police are investigating the case and AFP Superintendent Conrad Jensen said the estimated street value of the haul was almost $31 million.

Andre Tamine, 63, Isabelle Legace, 28, and Melina Roberce, 23, faced charges of importing a commercial quantity of cocaine when they appeared in court yesterday.

The Sea Princess left Southampton in England.