IN a year of humongous cocaine busts in Spanish ports, 2023 signs off with a hefty – but by no means record-breaking – haul of two tonnes in the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
The drugs were concealed in a ballast tank of the Italian-flagged vessel ‘Grande Francia’, and required over 15 hours of meticulous inspection to discover.
The ‘Grande Francia’, a 214-metre roll-on roll-off cargo ship, arrived at Tenerife from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a known hotbed for drug trafficking, and was scheduled to head next to Marseille, France.
The discovery was made on December 18th during a routine but intensive ‘anchorage visit’ by law enforcement officials.
Inside the ballast tank, officers found 69 burlap-wrapped bales, a common packaging method in drug smuggling, totaling 2,055 kilograms of cocaine.
Also found were life jackets, geolocation devices, ropes, food supplies, and fuel containers, likely intended for use by the narco gang in retrieving the drugs from the ship.
The operation culminated in the arrest of six individuals, including five crew members of the ship— one Italian, one Romanian, and three Filipinos— and another Filipino national residing on the island.
The detainees, along with the confiscated narcotics, have been turned over to the Juzgado de Instrucción número 3 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
It brings the number of tonnes of cocaine seized in Spain in the last two months of the year to at least 11, after similar busts in Galicia of over seven tonnes and a further two in Valencia.