The U.S. Coast Guard announced this week that they made yet another open-ocean sub bust last month. This time the semi-submersible vessel contained nearly $69 million worth of cocaine.
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane reportedly intercepted the drug-smuggling vessel in the Pacific Ocean after it was spotted by maritime patrol aircraft. Once on board, the Coast Guard seized control of the vessel in order to ensure its crew did not attempt to sink the vessel and destroy the evidence of their crimes. Once the semi-submersible was under Coast Guard control it was found to be carrying over 5,000 pounds of cocaine.
“Boarding teams from the cutter deployed in interceptor boats and stopped the suspected smuggling vessel just before midnight. The boarding teams took control of the vessel before the four suspected smugglers aboard could sink the craft using installed scuttling valves,” a Coast Guard press release said.
The Coast Guard boarding team took four suspected smugglers from aboard the vessel into custody. In the video below, you can watch as bale after bale of what is apparently cocaine is pulled out of the vessel.
“I am really proud of our crew and the precision and professionalism with which they conducted this interdiction,” said Cmdr. Dorothy Hernaez, Commanding Officer of the Harriet Lane.
“It was an all hands on deck effort to properly position the cutter and to safely make the seizure. This interdiction was made possible by great team work, including excellent air support provided by Joint Interagency Task Force South and assistance from Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s crew in off-loading the bulk contraband from the vessel.”
Despite a series of high profile semi-submersible drug busts in recent months, including one in September worth $165 million and another in June worth a whopping $232 million, Coast Guard officials believe that only about 11% of the cocaine smuggled through the Eastern Pacific is intercepted in these sorts of operations. Because of that, smuggling drugs in these sorts of vessels remains a highly lucrative, and largely successful, enterprise.
While in the footage the vessel seems easy to spot, in the vast expanse of the Pacific these ships are exceedingly difficult to detect from anywhere but the air, and with thousands of square miles to cover, there remains ample space to evade the U.S. Coast Guard.
“They blend in,” Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Brickey says. “Most of the vessel is underwater, so it’s hard to pick out. They’re painted blue. They match the water.”