A Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) container ship that was the subject of a hoax bomb threat was later found to be carrying smuggled cocaine.

The prosecutor’s office in Antwerp, Belgium, has revealed that more than 2,400 kg of the drug was discovered in a container of cocoa on the 4,872-teu MSC Lorena (built 2006) in the port.

The vessel had been forced to dock in Vlissingen, the Netherlands, in late December after a bomb threat, but this turned out to be a false alarm, the NL Times reported.

An anonymous call to police had been made on 22 December when the ship was off the Dutch coast.

The MSC Lorena eventually left Vlissingen after a week at anchor, following extensive investigations.

It arrived in Antwerp on 29 December to unload, and this is where the drugs were found.

Police have arrested two men in the bomb hoax case, a 24-year-old from Delft and a 22-year-old from Hagenaar.

They are suspected of threatening to commit a terrorist crime.

Dutch media reported the state wants to recover the cost of the investigation from the suspects.

MSC has been contacted for further information.

The MSC Lorena is currently underway off West Africa, having left Togo bound for Ivory Coast.

Denial of gang infiltration

Last month, MSC denied it has become a prime drug-trafficking conduit for Balkan gangs.

Bloomberg had claimed that the Balkan Cartel, one of Europe’s most notorious drug-smuggling gangs, honed their scheme to smuggle cocaine on MSC’s ships for a decade, forcibly recruiting its employees.

The news wire also maintained that MSC and the US government remain mired in a court battle over the $1bn drug bust on the 11,562-teu MSC Gayane (2018) in 2019, which could see the Geneva-based liner giant hit with a $700m fine.

MSC vehemently denied the allegations in a statement issued on Saturday.

“MSC strongly objects to Bloomberg’s headline claim that the subversion of a small number of seafarers from Montenegro, in what remain very specific circumstances, amounts to the “company” being “infiltrated” by a drugs cartel,” MSC stated.