USCG, Navy bust $32.7M cocaine shipment in Caribbean Sea

The crews of the Coast Guard cutter Richard Dixon and the U.S. Navy patrol boat Shamal interdicted more than 1,110 kilograms of cocaine and detained four suspected smugglers in international waters in the Caribbean Sea on April 7.

The suspected smugglers, a Colombian and three Venezuelan men, were transferred to the Department of Justice, Southern District of Florida, for prosecution along with the cocaine that was estimated to have a wholesale value of approximately $32.7 million dollars.

During a routine patrol April 7, the crew of a maritime patrol aircraft flying in support of the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) noticed a suspicious 30′ blue-hulled go-fast vessel with four men and possible contraband on board. The go-fast vessel was detected approximately 150 nautical mi. south of La Romana, Dominican Republic. Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan working in coordination with JIATF-S diverted the Richard Dixon and the Shamal to interdict the suspect vessel.

Over-the-horizon boats were deployed to interdict the suspect vessel, and the crew of the Richard Dixon’s cutter boat arrived on scene and fired warning shots that effectively stopped the go-fast. A Coast Guard boarding team from the Richard Dixon located 35 bales of suspected contraband hidden inside the go-fast’s hull, which later tested positive for cocaine.

The Richard Dixon detained and embarked the suspected smugglers as well as the contraband.

“The coordination between the JIATF-S aircraft, USS Shamal, Sector San Juan, and Richard Dixon was superb,” said Lt. David Gilbert, cutter Richard Dixon commanding officer. “A lot has to go right for one of these stops to happen… On the ship, everything from making sure the engines run at top end to making sure the law enforcement team is dressed out and ready requires a team effort. Richard Dixon’s seasoned crew and law enforcement team executed this stop extremely well because we worked together.”

Operation Unified Resolve is a coordinated effort among the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security partners intended to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The 154′ fast response cutter Richard Dixon is homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while the 174′ Shamal is a Cyclone-class patrol boat homeported in Mayport Fla.

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Ashley Herriman

Ashley Herriman is WorkBoat's online editor.

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