A banner week for Coast Guard drug seizures

Just two days after the U.S. Coast Guard offloaded 16 tons of seized cocaine in Florida, the agency announced the seizure of another 1,608 kilograms of the drug off Puerto Rico.

Tuesday’s major offload in Port Everglades, Fla., came from seizures in international waters off the Eastern Pacific Ocean during a 26-day period. The drugs, worth an estimated $420 million wholesale, were interdicted as part of an operation with the Canadian Navy.

U.S. cutters James, Mohawk, Sherman, and Tampa all participated in the operation, which netted 17 separate suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions. A Coast Guard helicopter also contributed.

“I am extremely proud of the crew of Coast Guard Cutter James and our embarked HITRON aviation detachment for a highly successful inaugural patrol,” said Vice Adm. Karl Schultz, commander of Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “Our persistent maritime presence in drug trafficking zones from cutters like James, enables us to interdict bulk quantities of drugs at sea, preventing criminal networks’ illicit cargoes from reaching the shores of Central America, and land routes into the United States.”

On Wednesday, the Coast Guard announced that the 154′ fast response cutter Heriberto Hernandez and a 33’ response boat helped nab four suspected smugglers and seized 1,608 kilograms of cocaine off the coast of Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.

The vessels responded to reports from a Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft that a 35’ go-fast vessel was transiting in the dark without navigation lights in in waters off Dorado, Puerto Rico.

The Coast Guard also dispatched an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft to assist with aerial surveillance, and CBP and Puerto Rico Police marine units also responded. The Coast Guard and CBP boats engaged in a high-speed pursuit of the go-fast, which was eventually interdicted by the CBP marine unit.

Two of the suspected smugglers were arrested aboard the go-fast while two others, who jumped overboard during the pursuit, were recovered and apprehended by the crew of the Coast Guard response boat and the Puerto Rico Police maritime unit.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Coast Guard and Puerto Rico Police air and maritime law enforcement units interdicted and seized a drug smuggling vessel March 27, 2017 with 1,608 kilograms of cocaine aboard and apprehended four suspected smugglers off the coast of Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. USCG photo.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Coast Guard and Puerto Rico Police air and maritime law enforcement units interdicted and seized a drug smuggling vessel March 27, 2017 with 1,608 kilograms of cocaine aboard and apprehended four suspected smugglers off the coast of Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. USCG photo.

In all, 48 bales containing 1,449 bricks of cocaine weighing approximately 1,608 kilograms were field tested and yielded positive results to the presence of cocaine.

The contraband, detainees and seized go-fast were placed in the custody of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations special agents in San Juan.

“The strong interagency partnerships, effective coordination and the rapid response displayed by all responding units resulted in the interdiction of this major drug shipment and the apprehension of the smugglers, who will now have their day in court,” said Capt. Robert Warren, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander. “Our collective resolve and tireless efforts to interdict and stop drug smuggling vessels at sea is making a difference in providing for the security of our citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

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Ashley Herriman

Ashley Herriman is WorkBoat's online editor.

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