The crew of the 418’ Coast Guard cutter Hamilton offloaded approximately 18.5 tons (16,856 kilograms) of cocaine Thursday in Port Everglades, Fla. The drugs, seized in international waters off the Eastern Pacific Ocean, were estimated to be worth $498 million wholesale.
The drugs were interdicted along Central and South America by U.S. Coast Guard cutters and a Royal Canadian Navy ship sailing with an embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment team aboard.
The offload represents 20 separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions by the Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Naval crews and its interagency partners.
"The 18.5 tons of seized cocaine coming off our decks today is the product of partnerships and the collaboration of U.S. Southern Command, Joint Interagency Task Force-South, the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State and Justice, the Canadian Navy and many of our international maritime service partners," said Capt. Scott Clendenin, commanding officer of the Hamilton. "Building international partnerships is at the heart of this effort. No one nation alone can prevent the deleterious impact of drug smuggling on our borders and on the region as a whole. Our efforts to interdict modern maritime smugglers involves intricately choreographed actions of joint, interagency and international operations centers, aircraft and vessels operating in concert against stealthy and well-funded international criminal smuggling organizations."
The Coast Guard has increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied military or law enforcement personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boarding, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda, Calif.