Border Force officers, supported by the National Crime Agency (NCA) have made what they believe to be the biggest cocaine seizure in Britain for more than two years.
The drugs were discovered on board the ship MV Crown Jade, a Panamanian registered vessel that had travelled from Colombia and docked in Portsmouth on Saturday 26 October.
Officers boarded the vessel on Saturday evening.
A three day search, which involved NCA investigators and Border Force search teams uncovered around 850 kilos of cocaine, concealed amongst pallets of bananas.
It is estimated that if cut and sold in the UK the drugs would have had a street value of around £136 million.
The vessel was then allowed to proceed, without the drugs, to the Belgian port of Antwerp.
Investigations into the eventual destination for the shipment are ongoing in the UK and abroad.
Immigration Minister, Mark Harper said:
I congratulate the Border Force and NCA officers involved in stopping such a huge amount of drugs entering the UK and ending up on our streets.
This joint operation is an example of the intelligence-led, co-ordinated action being taken to protect our border and target the organised criminals behind drug and people trafficking.
Officers believe the seizure at Portsmouth is the biggest since 1.2 tonnes of cocaine was discovered on a luxury yacht in Southampton in May 2011.
Deputy Director of the NCA’s Border Policing Command, Tom Dowdall, said:
This was a huge shipment and losing it is a major blow for the criminal groups involved.
We believe the cocaine found on board this ship is of a very high purity – probably more than eighty percent.
It would have been cut several times before being sold, so the amount found here could have ended up as several tonnes at street level.
This seizure was made thanks to the close co-operation between the NCA, Border Force and our international law enforcement partners.
The NCA is a new law enforcement agency that has been tasked with leading the UK’s fight to cut serious and organised crime.
Its Border Policing Command (BPC) has over 300 officers at major ports, investigating detections of drugs, firearms, cash and other non-fiscal crime made by Border Force. The BPC also has an extensive overseas network of around 120 officers in 40 locations around the world.