Third time’s a charm: 7 tons of cocaine seized
Posted by LT Stephanie Young, Monday, October 31, 2011
While some claim 13 is an unlucky number, the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk would disagree. In just 13 days Mohawk interdicted two drug subs, keeping seven tons of cocaine, $180 million wholesale, off the streets of our nation.
Mohawk, a medium-endurance cutter, interdicted the self-propelled semi-submersible vessel while on a routine counternarcotics patrol in the Western Caribbean Sea. Used regularly to transport illegal narcotics in the Eastern Pacific, this is only the third Coast Guard interdiction of an SPSS in the Caribbean.
The chase commenced when the crew of a maritime patrol aircraft spotted a suspicious vessel and notified Mohawk’s crew of the location.
“We were about 150 miles away so we were in one of those instances where we really needed to come up to full speed and close that gap so we could interdict this vessel,” said Cmdr. Mark Fedor, Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk’s commanding officer.
With Mohawk steaming forward, their helicopter and boatcrew launched. Joined by the maritime patrol aircraft, the assets moved in and successfully interdicted the drug sub.
“This is the second self-propelled semi-submersibles case for this crew and I am extremely proud we were able to stop millions of dollars of cocaine from reaching the streets of America,” said Fedor. “They are a significant threat to our nation and throughout Central and South America because they can smuggle massive amounts of narcotics as well as other illicit goods or people and we will continue to be out here and stand a vigilant watch.”
With the crew detained, the self-propelled semi-submersible sank along with the contraband, an act that is common as drug traffickers design their vessels to be difficult to spot and rapidly sink when they detect law enforcement.
Because of the shallow depth at which the sub sank, Coast Guard Cutter Cypress, a 225-foot buoy tender, initiated a search with the FBI Laboratory’s Technical Dive Team. Together the crew and dive team conducted multiple search patterns and located the sub.
“The interdiction of a third SPSS in the Caribbean brings to a close an extremely successful fiscal year for the Coast Guard here in Southeast U.S. and Caribbean,” said Rear Adm. Bill Baumgartner, commander of the 7th Coast Guard District. “Working with our interagency and international partners, we detained 98 smugglers and prevented 60,064 pounds of cocaine and 4,412 pounds of marijuana with a combined street value of $727 million from reaching our streets.”
“Although we have been finding highly creative and innovative ways to make our counter drug mission successful, we continued to be challenged by the maintenance requirements and limited capabilities of our aging fleet of larger ships,” added Baumgartner. “One of the greatest limitations to our success is the availability of large cutters to patrol the transit zones, and new cutters, designed to patrol far offshore in District Seven, will ensure we continue to detect threats at greater distances from U.S. shores and meet the demands of our robust counter-drug mission.”