This Journal of Commerce entry will show that not only were the violent consequences of Congress’s black

market an everyday threat to our ships and our lives (police bodyguards, two assassination attempts, 4 hours of torture, and exile) but on the US regulatory aspect Due Process protections for property at hazard, such as our ships, required by common sense, basic decency, and respect for the property of others, was being swept away in this new source of “revenue” for self-financing “federal law enforcement agencies” through the wide use and documented abuse of in rem “civil forfeiture”, an oxymoron in itself, (see 1988 GAO report headline;” Civil Asset Forfeiture; A billion Dollar Program” on this site): “new tougher law renders a ship or aircraft subject to seizure simply if unmanifested illegal drugs are found.” “Until October, US Customs could seize vessels only if the district director had evidence the line was intentionally involved in the smuggling.” “Despite the toughened law, which also boosted the fines to $1,000 from $50 an ounce of cocaine seized and to $500 from $25 an ounce of marijuana” Three years later, federal Court of Appeals Circuit Judge Reinhardt on US Customs Commissioner von Raab and the excesses committed under the March 1988 “Zero Tolerance” US Customs policy as thousands of property owners were deprived of their belongings by US Customs in many cases for a few seeds of marijuana:
“I believe that Commissioner von Raab's zero tolerance policy was arbitrary and capricious and served to deny innocent persons their constitutional rights”

“Zero Tolerance” for some but not for, for instance, Chiquita’s ships which repeatedly transported tons of cocaine from Colombia because they faced exactly the same threat that an illegal and very lucrative market has always created: bloodletting.

Journal of Commerce, The (New York, NY) January 2, 1987 Edition: FIVE STAR Section: MARITIME Page: 22B Topics: Index Terms: MARITIME DRUG CRIME CARRIERS BATTLE DRUG SMUGGLING STEAMSHIP LINES FACE DIFFICULT TASK TRYING TO PREVENT SHIPMENTS Author: CRAIG DUNLAP Journal of Commerce Staff Dateline: MIAMI Article Text: The seizure of a record volume of cocaine hidden within two containers brought into the country aboard a Linea Marlago ship in October illustrates the almost hopeless efforts of steamship lines to prevent such shipments. In that case, and in many previous instances involving other lines, the containers were sealed prior to delivery to Marlago in Venezuela, so the carrier didn't know two of the 70 containers it delivered to the port of Palm Beach contained false walls concealing the cocaine. For that reason, among others, the vessel was not seized by the U.S. US Customs Service, even though a new tougher law renders a ship or aircraft subject to seizure simply if unmanifested illegal drugs are found. Until October, US Customs could seize vessels only if the district director had evidence the line was intentionally involved in the smuggling.

Despite the toughened law, which also boosted the fines to $1,000 from $50 an ounce of cocaine seized and to $500 from $25 an ounce of marijuana, the risk of ship arrest in a door-to-door container shipment is minimal because of the inability of the carriers to know definitely what their containers hold, according to Harry Carnes, U.S. Customs' Miami district director. Most of US Customs' equipment seizures have involved aircraft, most recently an Air Jamaica jet found carrying 162 pounds of marijuana into Miami International Airport in early December. For Air Jamaica, this represented the 13th time in the last three months of 1986 that marijuana was discovered aboard a company jet and the airline was fined $1.3 million. The greater difficulty the steamship lines have policing what is carried aboard its vessels is one reason US Customs seizes more aircraft than ships, but that, by itself, is no guarantee against seizure. Flota Mercante Grancolombiana, the largest Colombian ship line, has had vessels seized in Houston and Los Angeles even though the carrier has initiated one of the industry's toughest campaigns aimed at preventing illegal drug smuggling. Grancolombiana sends its security personnel to training sessions and workshops conducted by U.S. US Customs, and endeavors to check the backgrounds of shippers and to inspect suspicious shipments, according to Jorge Rovirosa, executive vice president of Farovi Shipping Corp., Grancolombiana's Miami agency. Enrique Vargas, president of Grancolombiana, hit on that theme in a recent speech in Miami marking the line's 40th anniversary. He acknowledged a few crewmembers have been persuaded to assist in the illegal activities on rare occasions, but "we have dedicated and will continue every effort toward the fight against the drug traffic." Mr. Carnes said many factors, including track records and degree of cooperation with US Customs, come to bear in determining if a vessel will be seized. The extensive cooperation provided US Customs by Marlago was a significant factor behind the release of the Marlago I in October, despite the

6,900 pounds of cocaine valued at $1.6 billion discovered in two containers the ship had been carrying. It was Marlago's own contracted employees, working for Heavy Lift Services stevedoring company at the port of Palm Beach, who discovered the false walls in the containers and notified US Customs and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration - after US Customs had already cleared the boxes for pickup. Such cooperation is par for the course at Marlago, said Eric Perkins, director of the line. Marlago works closely with US Customs, often sending the agency advance invoices, especially on such chemical shipments as ether, used in the processing of cocaine, Mr. Perkins said. "The advance notice is the key thing, plus keeping watch on new shippers and on booking procedures in Venezuela," he said, adding that the line does not accept cash payments. "Other than that, there's nothing much we can do." In the case of Marlago, which operates between Palm Beach and La Guaira, Venezuela, any additional security improvements must come from the Venezuelan government. There are a number of roadblocks that must be overcome in Venezuela, Mr. Perkins said. Among those are prohibitions on private companies employing their own security forces and on permitting private stevedores to lease land for their operations - both of which lessen the carrier's and stevedore's control. Marlago also is attempting to persuade Venezuelan port officials to install weight scales at La Guaira, Mr. Perkins said, noting that at the moment, the lines are left no alternative but to take a shipper's word for the content and weight of a container. As a result, he said, the company often receives containers weighing far more than claimed,which are discovered only when the stevedore's equipment can't move them.

Similar advice came from Paul Jasinski, general director of Seaboard Marine Ltd., which operates its own U.S.-Central American service and serves as agent for two services to Colombia and Venezuela. A ship line must be "exceptionally careful before accepting a new account," Mr. Jasinski said. "It's a question of knowing whom you're doing business with and watching the cargo like a hawk." An unfortunate outgrowth of the Marlago incident is that despite its cooperation with federal authorities and the determination the line had no knowing involvement in the cocaine shipment, Marlago appears to have come away with a black eye. Another Venezuelan ship line with a somewhat similar appearing name, Maritima Aragua SA, evidently found it necessary to run an advertisement immediately after news of the cocaine seizure broke stating that it was not connected with Marlago. It's all the more unfortunate considering the risks involved in cooperating with US Customs and DEA. For instance, Mr. Jasinski declined to divulge greater detail on his company's security measures out of "fear of endangering lives." That apparently is no overstatement. An Avianca Airlines investigator who blocked a 400-pound shipment of cocaine destined for Miami was murdered Sept. 1 on his way to work in Colombia. Two months later, the Colombian airline was hit with a $4.7 million fine by U.S. US Customs for not preventing the shipment of 293 pounds of cocaine into Miami. But without the assistance of the carriers, there is little US Customs or the DEA can do to slow the flood of illegal drugs entering the United States aboard commercial vessels and aircraft. Mr. Carnes said his agency faces an extremely difficult task as his district alone must handle hundreds of thousands of entries.

Trying to search every container arriving in this country would bring the flow of commerce to a screeching halt, which leaves US Customs to rely on its smuggler profiles and intelligence network, Mr. Carnes said. US Customs would like to expand that intelligence network to include a greater number of ocean carriers, the response from which has been mixed, the Miami district director said. Some lines, such as Marlago, come forward completely voluntarily while other are cooperating a bit more these days only because of the tougher antismuggling law now in place, Mr. Carnes said. Copyright (c) 1987 The Journal of Commerce

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