NEW ORLEANS' CHANCE OFF-LOADING LEADS TO CUSTOMS' COCAINE SEIZURE

NEW ORLEANS' CHANCE OFF-LOADING LEADS TO CUSTOMS' COCAINE SEIZURE

U.S. Customs Service agents this week seized 3,450 pounds of cocaine inside containers off-loaded from a Panamanian-flag vessel.

The agency has not decided whether the vessel's Chilean owners will be penalized, said Liz Orgeron, U.S. Customs public affairs director in New Orleans.The Condor I, owned and operated by Transmares Naviera Chilena Ltd. of Santiago, Chile, arrived in New Orleans from Colombia Sunday with four containers of cellophane tape bound for Mexico.

The ship's operator "decided it wasn't cost-effective to have the ship make a stop in Mexico for just four containers, so they unloaded the containers here to be put on another ship going to Mexico," said Ms. Orgeron.

The off-loading caused the shipment to come under the scrutiny of Customs officials, who decided to examine the cargo because it had originated in Colombia, Ms. Orgeron said.

Customs agents turned up 64 polyurethane-woven sacks containing kilo-sized bricks of cocaine.

The Condor I departed New Orleans Tuesday bound for Houston and Central America.