The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed today [Aug.1] that they intercepted their first drug smuggling submarine in Caribbean waters, and have recovered $180 million worth of drugs from the ‘drug sub’.
The submarine was seized well away from Bermuda – off the Honduran coast – however it marks the first time a drug smuggling submarine has been intercepted in the waters of the Caribbean. Once thought of as more of a myth, the submarines are used regularly to transport illegal narcotics in the Eastern Pacific, and the fact a submarine was intercepted is indisputable proof that drug submarines are now operating in the Caribbean area.
Mostly built in the jungles of Colombia and other South American countries, the typical drug smuggling submarine is less than 100 feet in length, with 4-5 crewmembers, and can carry up to 10 metric tons of illicit cargo for distances up to 5,000 miles. They are said to cost millions per submarine.
Drug traffickers design the submarines to rapidly sink in an effort to avoid being caught with the contraband by law enforcement, and the submarines are reported by U.S. officials to be responsible for the movement of nearly 33% of all cocaine in their transit zone.
The FBI Dive Team was able to recover nearly 15,000 pounds of contraband from the submarine – suspected to be cocaine – and American officials say its estimated street value in the U.S is $180 million. The photo below, courtesy of the US Coast Guard, depicts divers recovering some of the bales from the sea:
A statement from the U.S Coast Guard said, “The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca, a medium-endurance cutter homeported in Boston, interdicted a drug smuggling, self-propelled semi-submersible [SPSS] vessel in the western Caribbean Sea July 13.”
“Used regularly to transport illegal narcotics in the Eastern Pacific, this interdiction is the first interdiction of an SPSS in the Caribbean and the first underwater drug removal of an SPSS.”
Audio statement from Lt. Cmdr. Peter Niles, Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Oak:
The U.S. Coast Guard said, “A U.S. Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol airplane spotted the SPSS while on patrol and alerted the Seneca crew of the location. With the assistance of the Customs and Border Patrol airplane, a Seneca-based Coast Guard helicopter crew and pursuit boatcrew interdicted the SPSS and detained its crew. The SPSS sank during the interdiction, but not before a quantity of cocaine was recovered.”
American officials say the case is under investigation, and the 15,000lbs of contraband will be turned over later to other U.S. law enforcement agencies for disposition. The photo below courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard depicts some of the 15,000 pounds of cocaine they seized. It took three days to remove the 200 plus bales of cocaine from the sunken vessel.
Rear Adm. William Baumgartner, commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District headquartered in Miami, said “Our goal is to interdict cocaine at sea when it is still concentrated in large loads before those drugs can be broken into small loads and smuggled across our border with Mexico.”
Video released shows a Boston-based Coast Guard boat approach the the semi-submersible submarine in the open waters, and the sub sinking:
Late last year, the U.S Coast Guard intercepted a [regular] boat off the Dominican Republic with three Bermudians onboard, which was said to be carrying over $13 million worth of marijuana.
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Articles that link to this one:
- Second ‘Drug Sub’ Caught In Caribbean | Bernews.com | September 29, 2011
- Coast Guard Unload ‘Drug Sub’ Stash in Miami | Bernews.com | December 29, 2013