August 22, 2007
Cocaine seized from semi-sub smuggling boat
A Jacksonville, Fla.-based U.S. Customs and Border Protection P-3 Orion aircraft participated in an operation Sunday in the Eastern Pacific Ocean that resulted in seizure of around 5 tons of cocaine.
CBP's surveillance aircraft tracked what is described as a "semi-submerged smuggling vessel designed to avoid detection."
Working with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, CBP's Air and Marine crew located, tracked and coordinated the interdiction of the vessel, loaded with an estimated $352 million of cocaine.
CBP Air and Marine's P-3 aircraft was patrolling in the Eastern Pacific as part of ongoing western hemisphere tracking operations, when the crew spotted the submersible vessel.
The P-3 aircraft then guided a U.S. Navy ship to the scene as the suspects scuttled the vessel along with the majority of the contraband aboard.
Coast Guard law enforcement detachment personnel made the arrests and seized 11 cocaine bales (1,210 pounds).
A similar interdiction was made last November. (See earlier report). In that case, the vessel was not scuttled. That 45 ft craft was seized by the U.S. Coast Guard in cooperation with Costa Rica and was later described as a cigarette boat that had an ocean-colored fiberglass covering intended as camouflage.
The boat rode low in the water because of the weight of the cocaine but did not actually submerge, and was covered with lead lamination to conceal it from radar. Tubes protruding from the boat turned out to be exhaust pipes rather than snorkels.
In that case, too, the vessel was carrying four persons.