NEW Zealand authorities recently intercepted a shipment of cocaine magnetically attached to the hull of a ship.

NZ Customs Service and the Royal New Zealand Navy joined forces on the operation in April, but the details of the operation were released on Tuesday 11 June.

Customs had received information that a commercial heading to New Zealand had a box attached at the stern, which was not part of the ship’s structure.

As the ship approached New Zealand, Customs maintained regular contact with the ship’s captain and agents to monitor the attachment and report suspicious activity.

Customs, the Navy and the shipping line agreed on a plan to intercept the vessel approximately 50 nautical miles off New Zealand’s coast using Customs’ patrol vessel Hawk V.

The ship was escorted to a location just outside Auckland where Customs co-ordinated with Navy ordnance experts and divers, who used an uncrewed surface vessel and an aerial drone to monitor and inspect the box.

The box was removed and transferred to a safe location on shore.

It was found to contain an electromagnet which held it to the ship, and seven kilograms of cocaine.

Authorities estimate the value of the consignment to up to NZ$3.15 million (about $2.92 million).

Customs manager maritime Robert Smith said the joint operation used a range of technology, including remote controlled equipment, to gather information about the attached box to ensure the safe removal and examination.

“Customs works closely with our Navy partners and this operation was a great example of maximising each other’s capabilities and tools to reach a positive outcome,” he said.

“Our industry partners also play a big role in helping to keep our borders secure. We were helped by the shipping industry right at the start.

“This operation shows the value of our strong international networks with other agencies as well as global shipping lines to prevent transnational organised crime exploiting not only our population but also our supply chains.”

The Royal New Zealand Navy’s maritime component aommander, Commodore Garin Golding, said the operation demonstrated “an exciting new step” in leveraging the advantages of uncrewed systems technology.

“Our control room in Devonport provided a live-tracked, common operating picture to gather intelligence utilising a combination of uncrewed platforms and our professional personnel,” he said.

“It meant the operation was able to be co-ordinated remotely and achieved the best possible outcome.”