Border agents seize 270 kilograms of cocaine at Halifax yacht club
HALIFAX -- A large cocaine bust on a boat attempting to dock in Halifax has revealed how easily foreign vessels can enter into Canada. Relying on an honour system, yacht clubs are left to track travellers arriving by boat and monitor where they're arriving from, who they are, and whether they're following COVID-19 pandemic protocol.
Nearly $34 million worth of cocaine was discovered inside a yacht as it tried to dock at a Halifax yacht club.
The Canadian Border Services Agency says the vessel came from the Caribbean on July 17 and didn't report to the agency when it entered the country. The next day, the boat was searched, and 270 kilograms of suspected cocaine was found. Two people on board were arrested by the RCMP, who also seized the drugs.
Halifax's Armdale Yacht Club was not involved in the seizure or the investigation; however, its staff is vigilant when it comes to keeping track of boaters. During the COVID-19 pandemic, yacht clubs are tasked with monitoring boats arriving from outside of the Atlantic bubble and ensuring boaters follow pandemic protocol.
"The first thing they [boat operators] have to do is contact Canada Border [Services Agency] agencies," says Armdale Yacht Club vice commodore, Umberto Catalano. "That team comes down and does an inspection and ensures all the paperwork is in place."
Catalano says the club hasn't had any foreign boaters since it opened in May; however, it has had Canadians headed home from the Caribbean. The club says if returning Canadians want to spend time on Halifax shores, they have to tie up their boats, attach a yellow quarantine flag to their boat, and self-isolate on board for two weeks.
"They contact the local couriers," says Catalano. "If it's a grocery store, the groceries will be dropped off at the fuel dock – they bring a tender on, they grab that, and they immediately go back to their boat."
Canadian Border Services did not do an interview with CTV concerning the matter. However, in an email response, the agency says foreign boaters are not allowed to travel into Canadian waters for non-essential reasons, such as tourism.
Chris Shaw, co-owner of online marine and boating supply store Binnacle.com, says he has encountered a few boaters from away and immediately asked them about self-isolating.
"I asked where they were coming from – they said Antigua," says Shaw. "They were quick to admit that they had met the public health guidelines."
Meanwhile, with the East Coast's boating community being so tight-knit, Catalano says it's easy to spot outsiders and report anything suspicious.
"There's a lot of eyes looking around," says Catalano.