More than 16 tons of cocaine intercepted at Philadelphia port, nearly a record haul

Raw video: 16.5 tons of cocaine seized in drug bust on cargo ship in Philadelphia

The seized drugs have a street value estimated at $1 billion, the ship’s crew has been arrested and charged.

More than 16.5 tons of cocaine were seized from a ship at a Philadelphia port on Tuesday in what some officials say was among the nation's largest drug busts.

The billion-dollar bust, in which several crew members were arrested, occurred aboard the MSC Gayane, a cargo ship that originated in Chile and traveled through Panama and the Bahamas before docking at the Packer Marine Terminal in Philidelphia, a senior official at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) told CBS News.

"This is one of the largest drug seizures in United States history," U.S. Attorney William McSwain, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, tweeted on Tuesday. "This amount of cocaine could kill millions – MILLIONS – of people. My Office is committed to keeping our borders secure and streets safe from deadly narcotics."

The Mediterranean Shipping Co., responded to the drug raid by saying it's "aware of reports of an incident at the Port of Philadelphia in which U.S. authorities made a seizure of illicit cargo. MSC takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its services."

33K POUNDS OF COCAINE SEIZED IN ONE OF THE BIGGEST US DRUG BUSTS

The company reiterated that it's "committed to working with authorities and industry groups worldwide to improve the security of the international supply chain and ensure that illegal practices are dealt with promptly and thoroughly by the relevant authorities."

Several other cocaine busts over the last several months included $38 million worth of the drug sniffed out by drug dogs in Philidelphia in March, resulting in 1,185 pounds of coke being confiscated by authorities. But Tuesday's bust trumped that haul.

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Another huge drug raid went down in February, when customs agents seized 3,200 pounds of cocaine at the Port of New York and New Jersey totaling about $77 million – the largest bust at a port since 1994.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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