For people who don’t know, the Coast Guard is a primarily law enforcement agency in peacetime. As William & Mary Law Review wrote, “The Coast Guard is unique among the United States armed forces in many ways. Among other distinguishing factors, it is the smallest of the five services and is the only armed service given responsibility and authority for direct law enforcement action.” Furthermore, the agency is committed to the “drug war” in the maritime area, making sure that they would bust these drug smugglers and their illegal cargos as they entered the country. They were able to bust quite a few that were far from being small time. Here are three of the largest Coast Guard drug busts so far.
43,000 Pounds of Cocaine Off the Coast of Panama
In March of 2007, the United States Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton and Sherman in California successfully intercepted a Panamanian ship Gatun that they spotted the previous day. When they checked, they found some 43,000 pounds of cocaine hidden in two containers loaded on board the vessel that was off the coast of Panama.
The fourteen crew members, who were Panamanian and Mexican, were arrested and charged both by the United Stated and Panamanian authorities.
As the Drug Enforcement Agency administrator Karen Tandy said at that time,
“This record-breaking seizure denied the Mexican drug lords $300 million in drug revenue.”
61,130 Pounds of Cocaine and Marijuana at Florida Port
In August 2021, the crew members of the US Coast Guard Cutter James had a record-breaking drug bust when they offloaded about 59,700 pounds of cocaine and approximately 1,430 pounds of marijuana at Port Everglades in Florida. These drugs were valued at a whopping amount of $1.4 billion. According to Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, Atlantic Area Commander,
“Today’s offload is a result of our combined efforts of our inter-agency partners and a dedicated international coalition. The Canadian government and Canadian Defence Forces brings an incredible capability in defeating transnational organized crime, and I’m grateful to HMCS Shawinigan to showcase Canada’s commitment. Together we will disrupt, defeat and degrade transnational organized crime. We will strengthen our efforts and continue to build collaboration and capability.”
The drugs were reportedly seized and recovered by 10 American, Dutch, and Canadian ships during 27 interceptions of the suspected drug smuggling vessels that were initially detected and monitored by the law enforcers that were coordinated by Florida-based Joint Interagency Task Force-South. However, it was the members of the US Coast Guard that conducted the interdictions and the actual boardings.
66,000 Pounds of Cocaine and Marijuana in Fort Lauderdale
Just last Feb. 17, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the US Coast Guard seized more than 30 metric tons of weed and coke during a months-long deployment off the South American Coast. These drugs were reportedly worth over $1 billion. The vessels were busted through the use of the United States’ sophisticated arsenal that includes drones and infrared cameras that can detect heat signatures from small vessels carrying cocaine.
As per the reports, this highlights the surge in narcotics being brought to the US from Colombia, which was an ally country and also the world’s top producer of cocaine.
As Dr. Rahul Gupta, head of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, said, “We are hitting the drug traffickers where it hits them most: their pocketbooks.”
Furthermore, he said that the administration is working to increase the country’s budget to establish the nation’s addiction treatment facilities, as well as decrease the supply of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and the like.
In Colombia, coca cultivation went up to 945 square miles in 2020, which could produce a total of 1,010 metric tons of coke. That was twice the production compared to what it was in 2014, not yet including those coming from Peru and Bolivia.