Another drug sub busted

A sinking self-propelled semi-submersible vessel was interdicted in the Western Caribbean Sea March 30, 2012, by the crews of Coast Guard Cutter Decisive, Coast Guard Cutter Pea Island, Joint Interagency Task Force South and the Honduran Navy. The SPSS sank during the interdiction in thousands of feet of water. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

A sinking self-propelled, semi-submersible vessel was interdicted in the Western Caribbean Sea March 30, 2012, by the crews of Coast Guard Cutter Decisive, Coast Guard Cutter Pea Island, Joint Interagency Task Force South and the Honduran Navy. The SPSS sank during the interdiction in thousands of feet of water. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

It’s been months since Compass last brought you a story of a drug sub bust – but the wait is over! Last month a team of Coast Guard crews and the Honduran navy interdicted a a drug smuggling, self-propelled semi-submersible vessel, marking the fifth interdiction of an SPSS in the Caribbean.

The cutters’ crews were called in when an Aviation Training Center Mobile aircrew, working in the Caribbean in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South’s Operation Martillio, spotted a suspicious vessel. Pea Island and Decisive diverted to the position and their pursuit boat crews were dispatched.

Coast Guard Cutter Pea Island is a patrol boat homeported in Key West, Fla. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Coast Guard Cutter Pea Island is a patrol boat homeported in Key West, Fla. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

With both Pea Island and Decisive’s pursuit boat crews on the case, the SPSS was successfully interdicted and four suspected smugglers were detained. During the interdiction, the drug sub sank in thousands of feet of water, an act that is common as drug traffickers design their vessels to be difficult to spot and rapidly sink when they detect law enforcement.

Medium endurance cutters like the Decisive are built for multi-week offshore patrols including operations requiring enhanced communications and helicopter and pursuit boat operations,” said Capt. Brendan McPherson, 7th Coast Guard District chief of enforcement. “When combined with patrol boats like the Pea Island, which has superior speed and flexibility, it helps us and our partners to provide the Coast Guard’s unique blend of military capability, law enforcement authority and lifesaving expertise wherever needed to protect American interests.”

Built in the jungles and remote areas of South America, the typical drug sub is less than 100 feet in length, with four or five crewmembers. They can carry a large amount of illicit cargo – up to 10 metric tons – for distances up to 5,000 miles. As was the case in this interdiction, most drug subs are designed to be difficult to spot and to rapidly sink, thereby making contraband recovery difficult.

Coast Guard Cutter Pea Island and Decisive, seen above, interdicted an SPSS and detained four suspected smugglers. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Coast Guard Cutter Pea Island and Decisive, seen above, interdicted an SPSS and detained four suspected smugglers. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

While several SPSS vessels have been interdicted in the Eastern Pacific since they began appearing in 2006, this is the fifth drug sub seizure in the Caribbean by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard’s first interdiction of a drug smuggling, SPSS vessel in the western Caribbean Sea happened in July 2011.

The interdiction of this transnational threat highlights the mission capabilities of the Coast Guard’s assets and people. As maritime threats continue to evolve, crews – like those of Decisive and Pea Island – remain ready to combat threats emanating from the sea, providing the safety and security essential to our American way of life.

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