Weeks after three Royal Caribbean employees were charged with trying to smuggle cocaine and heroin on board a Baltimore-bound cruise ship, officials found more drugs hidden on the same vessel, they announced Tuesday.
More heroin and cocaine — worth around $94,000 — were found on Saturday in a locker in an area largely limited to employees of the luxury cruise ship Enchantment of the Seas, said Steve Sapp, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which carried out the inspection with immigration and customs officials.
The ship had returned that day from a 12-night trip to ports in the Caribbean, including Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands, the cruise company said in a statement.
Less than a month ago, on Dec. 18, customs agents received a tip from the Enchantment's security officer that one of the ship's employees possessed drugs. Agents searched Gavin Excell, 35, when the ship docked in Baltimore, and found heroin and cocaine hidden in his waistband and shoes, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
Two other cruise ship employees — John Swart Garth and Kishurn Neptune, both 27 — were also arrested, and the three face charges of conspiring to import drugs into the country.
That incident, Sapp said, led to greater scrutiny of the Enchantment, which travels between Baltimore and locations in the Caribbean.
"If we already encountered an incident where drugs were discovered on the ship, we're more than likely going to take another look at the vessel further down the road," Sapp said.
The drugs found Saturday were sniffed out by a dog trained to detect narcotics, and were found hidden in a room accessible to any of the ship's hundreds of employees, Sapp said. No arrests have been made in connection with the latest find.
"It could be just about anybody," Sapp said. "It would be really difficult for us to bring in everyone for an interview."
The drugs were found wrapped in silver duct tape, similar in appearance to the packages of drugs found in December. While officials will not run checks on all of the cruise ship's employees to determine who was responsible for the drugs, Sapp said the customs agency will help Royal Caribbean determine which employees fit the profile of someone likely to smuggle drugs.
"We know that there's got to be someone on that crew who is bringing drugs on board for someone," Sapp said. "They might be coming from a source nation, they might have relatives or relations with someone who may be involved in narcotics smuggling."
Officials from Royal Caribbean said in a statement that the company is cooperating with the investigation and has a "strict zero tolerance policy regarding illegal drugs on its ships."
The latest Baltimore drug find comes on the heels of a Jan. 4 search by customs officials of an MSC Cruises ship docked in Fort Lauderdale. In that case, officials found small quantities of prescription drugs, marijuana, LSD, and other drugs, according to a news report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Last summer, President Barack Obama signed a law requiring cruise lines to report certain crimes occurring onboard their ships to federal authorities, as well as train some employees in evidence preservation and crime prevention.
The new provisions and recent drug finds indicate a greater federal emphasis on ensuring cruise lines are maintaining safety and operating legally, said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, an industry publication.
"It does seem like there is a newly aggressive policy to really keep an eye on the cruise ships," Brown said. The recent drug finds, she said, are "a black eye for the cruise industry and I will be very confident that the cruise lines are going to crack way down."