Almost half a tonne of cocaine destined for Australia’s streets has been seized in the third-largest drug haul in Australia’s history.

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The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service confiscated the 464kg haul, worth an estimated $160 million, from a yacht docked at Brisbane’s Scarborough Marina at Redcliffe, north of Brisbane.

“It’s the third-largest haul in Australia’s history,” AFP Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin told reporters in Brisbane.

“That’s 500,000 drug hits.

“The cocaine could have potentially earned … more than $160 million on Australian streets.”

United States authorities tipped off the AFP late last week that a catamaran carrying cocaine was destined for Australia from South America.

After two days of intense helicopter surveillance by Australian authorities, the ship and another vessel were found on Friday, 800km off the coast of Brisbane.

It is alleged the cocaine had been offloaded to a daughter ship that then brought it into Brisbane’s Scarborough Marina.

The drugs were seized and arrests were made.

The AFP charged three New South Wales men, aged 49, 41 and 38, on Tuesday.

Two were charged with attempted importation of a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug and the other with possession.

The men appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

They did not apply for bail and were remanded in custody to reappear on November 5.

The mother ship was intercepted late Wednesday and was being towed backed to Brisbane.

It was expected to arrive in a couple of days.

Two people on board the catamaran, believed to be from Costa Rica and Germany, have been detained.

AFP officers were still investigating where the drugs were from and from which South American port the vessel departed.

The three men charged are Simon Charles Golding, 41, and Geoffrey Stuart Triplett, 38, both from the inner Sydney suburb of Waterloo and Terrance Elfar, 49, from Eden on the NSW south coast.

Golding and Triplett were charged with importing or exporting commercial quantities of border controlled drugs while Triplett has been charged with possessing commercial quantities of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs.

They appeared in the Queensland Magistrates Court in Brisbane on Wednesday.

They did not apply for bail and were remanded in custody to reappear on November 5.