CGC Sherman stops drug “sub”

EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN - Four crew members exit a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel prior to its sinking Sunday, April 3, 2011. The SPSS was carrying an estimated 5.8 metric tons of cocaine and crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Sherman, homeported in Alameda, Calif., interdicted it and took all four of its crew members into custody. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Four crew members exit a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel prior to its sinking. The suspected smugglers were taken into custody by the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Sherman. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

For decades, the Coast Guard has been America’s first line of defense against drug trafficking on the high seas. Earlier this month, the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Sherman intercepted a self-propelled semi-submersible drug vessel, laden with a cargo of cocaine bound for Central America.

“Semi-submersibles are extremely difficult to detect and thanks to the excellent coordination between the Coast Guard and all the agencies that comprise the Joint Interagency Task Force – South, we continue to find and intercept them,” said Rear Adm. Joseph “Pepe” Castillo, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District, whose units have been involved in some of the biggest drug busts in history. “I’m proud of the crew of the Sherman and all of our Coast Guard men and women who put it on the line every day to keep illegal drugs from reaching our shores.”

CGC Sherman, a 378-foot high-endurance cutter out of Alameda, Calif., was on patrol 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica when a crewmember spotted a lookout standing atop the self-propelled semi-submersible vessel approximately half a mile away. As the crew of the Sherman sprang into action, three more men appeared on top of the drug vessel in life jackets just before the vessel sank beneath them.

Sherman launched a boarding team, which took the four suspected smugglers into custody and several bales and bricks of cocaine after an extensive search of the area.

Coast Guard Cutter Sherman. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Coast Guard Cutter Sherman. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“The crew has been training hard preparing for our counter-drug mission and the hard work and vigilance was apparent that morning when our amazingly alert watchstanders on the bridge detected the extremely low profile of the SPSS over a half-mile distance,” said Capt. Michael Haycock, commanding officer of the Sherman.

“Our motivated boarding teams and boat crews responded quickly to save the lives of the crewmembers and bring aboard the evidence. I couldn’t be prouder – the whole Sherman team worked together like a well-oiled machine and prevented these drugs from reaching our streets.”

The Coast Guard continues to successfully interdict and seize drugs bound to the U.S. Self-propelled semi-submersibles are a class of vessel used for smuggling large loads of narcotics across the ocean from South America to Central America. The vessels ride very low in the water and are generally made of fiberglass, making them very difficult to detect either visually or by radar. SPSS crews often scuttle their vessels before the Coast Guard can interdict them.

According to the latest releasable drug interdiction statistics, the Coast Guard has seized 14 semi-submersibles over the past two fiscal years.

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