Coast Guardsmen seized more than 5,600 lbs. of cocaine and apprehended five suspected drug smugglers from a self-propelled semisubmersible in the Pacific Ocean off Central America Sept. 6.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Waesche from Alameda, Calif., in partnership with a Joint Interagency Task Force South patrol aircraft from the U.S. Navy, intercepted the semisubmersible, which was laden with more than $73 million worth of cocaine.
Coast Guardsmen from Waesche launched two pursuit vessels with boarding teams and an armed helicopter crew to interdict the semisubmersible. Before being apprehended by the Coast Guard, the five suspected smugglers apparently attempted to scuttle the the vessel, as water filled it to just below the helm. Two Waesche crewmembers were able to board the semisubmersible and dewater it enough to remove more than 5,600 pounds of cocaine.
During Fiscal Year 2016, which ended Sept. 30, the Coast Guard intercepted more than 416,600 pounds of cocaine worth over $5.6 billion — a record for the service. The agency interdicted six self-propelled semisubmersibles during the same period. Designed for illicit trafficking, these vessels are hard to detect because of their low profile. They operate with a mostly submerged hull; a cockpit and exhaust pipe are visible just above the water.
“With every interdiction, we learn more about transnational organized crime networks that generate profit and proliferate power from a laundry list of illicit activities,” said Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area. “Coast Guard men and women not only keep drugs off U.S. streets, but they combat the influence of these criminal networks that spread violence and instability throughout the Western Hemisphere.”
This is the first semisubmersible interdiction by Waesche’s crew, which seized nearly 21,800 pounds of cocaine in Fiscal Year 2016. This vessel marks the seventh self-propelled semisubmersible interdiction for the Coast Guard’s Huntington-Ingalls-built 418’ National Security Cutters, the service’s newest major cutter class.
The drugs were to be offloaded at an event in San Diego on Oct. 27.