A bulker captain has been charged with smuggling 320 kg of cocaine into Australia following a raid off the far north-west coast.

The 51-year-old Montenegrin could be jailed for life if found guilty, domestic media said.

Police in Western Australia said the master was held on Monday after Interlink Maritime’s 38,800-dwt Interlink Veracity (built 2016) was searched on 15 May about 28 km off Port Hedland.

The seafarer was due in court on Tuesday, charged with importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs.

He is alleged to have dropped packages of the drug overboard for collection.

The cocaine is reportedly worth about AUD 128m ($90m).

Two other men, a German aged 37 and a 49-year-old Australian, allegedly used a small boat to pick up the plastic-wrapped drugs from the water off the coast of the Pilbara town.

Interlink Maritime has been contacted for comment.

The Australian was arrested in a campervan where investigators allegedly found the cocaine in 320 blocks.

Police will allege the German flew into Australia earlier this month to help retrieve the drugs.

The two men’s boat was seen idling close to the bulker.

The Interlink Veracity was boarded by a tactical response group. The vessel remained at Port Hedland on Tuesday.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) acting assistant commissioner John Tanti said: “Australia is no safe haven for criminals. We are coming after you and we will not stop.

“There is a perception by some in the community that cocaine is a safe drug. Let me be clear — it is not. Just as importantly, the transnational serious organised criminals who target Australia are undermining our national security, economy and social security system.”

In April, police arrested four seafarers for attempting to smuggle 416 kg of cocaine into Australia on a Safe Bulkers vessel.

This was “the biggest haul of illicit drugs ever confiscated in [the state of] South Australia, worth an estimated street value of more than AUD 166m,” the AFP said, without identifying the ship.

Safe Bulkers later said the vessel was its 78,000-dwt panamax Kypros Bravery (built 2015).