Professional divers have been warned against accepting work from criminal syndicates as police track a "rising trend" in illicit drugs allegedly smuggled inside cargo ship hulls to Australian ports.
More than 350 kilograms of cocaine was found inside vessels docked at Melbourne's port since early August, Australian Federal Police said.
AFP assistant commissioner Hilda Sirec said the area of the ship where these drugs were stored was not accessible to the general crew and divers were needed to retrieve the drugs.
She said divers working for criminal syndicates were "placing themselves in serious danger because retrieval often involves diving through dark, busy shipping channels with limited safety equipment".
"It's just not worth risking your life or your future for," she said.
This comes as police seized 154 kilograms of cocaine stored in a cargo ship hull on October 7 and 200 kilograms in a similar alleged importation attempt in August.
Police inspected these ships using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and on both occasions found a "suspicious attachment" under the waterline.
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AFP officers seized the illicit drugs and a suspected tracking device and launched an investigation to identify the source of the cocaine and its intended destination.
"The focus of our ongoing investigation is identifying and locating the transnational serious organised crime groups responsible for this attempted import, and the people working for them in Australia to receive and distribute these drugs," assistant commissioner Sirec said about the October 7 alleged importation.
Members of the public can report information anonymously to Crime Stoppers via 1800 333 000 and online via the Crime Stoppers website.
Help is available:
- For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.
- Access free 24/7 drug and alcohol counselling online at counsellingonline.org.au.
- For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to turningpoint.org.au.