One resident on Ailuk, a remote atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands which is home to around 400 people, discovered a 18-foot (5.4-meter) fiberglass vessel on a beach, loaded with around 1,430 pounds (649 kg) of cocaine in a hidden compartment. It was carrying no passengers. The cocaine came sealed and wrapped in blocks. The residents notified the authorities. Marshall Islands police collected and destroyed most of the packages by burning them in an incinerator on Tuesday. Only 4.4 pounds (2 kg) were saved for the US Drug Enforcement Agency to conduct laboratory analysis. The entire capture is worth an estimated $80 million. This is the largest amount of cocaine to ever wash onto the Marshall Islands.
Authorities believe the boat was originated from South or Central America. It could have been at sea for one or two years. Islands in the Pacific are on a major international drug trafficking route. Numerous drug packages have previously been seized or discovered in the Marshall Islands, including on Ailuk Atoll. Researchers from the University of Hawaii conducted 16 computer simulations of drift patterns from the coast of Mexico and discovered that nearly all eventually ended up in the Marshall Islands. Most of the time, the drugs are sold by locals rather than reported to the authorities. The Marshall Islands parliament established a drug task force in May.