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US Coast Guard seizes another semi-sub with six tons of cocaine

PortandTerminal.com, September 24, 2019

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Valiant has intercepted a drug-laden, 40-foot semi-submersible in the Eastern Pacific. It’s not the first one the USCG has caught recently.

While on routine patrol in the Eastern Pacific, Valiant’s crew interdicted a self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) in international waters carrying about 12,000 pounds of cocaine and apprehended four suspected drug smugglers. The haul is worth an estimated $165 million.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Valiant

The semi-submersible was detected and monitored by maritime patrol aircraft, and the Valiant crew was diverted by Joint Interagency Task Force South to interdict the semi-submersible, arriving after sunset.

Dark footage of USCG personnel boarding the sub.

The Valiant crew launched two small boats with boarding teams with Valiant crew members and two members of the Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team. The boarding parties successfully intercepted the semi-submersible in the early morning hours, and they conducted a full law enforcement boarding with the assistance of Colombian naval assets which arrived on scene shortly after.

Other drug smuggling subs

Drug smugglers construct subs of up to 100 feet in length, typically made of wood, fibreglass, and Kevlar to avoid radar detection, and capable of carrying as much as eight tons of cargo. Filled with cocaine, that’s a street value of nearly $200 million. The subs themselves can cost $2 million to build and often feature snorkels, radar, and air-conditioned sleeping quarters for at least a captain, navigator, and a guard. 

Here are two examples of drug subs that have been captured in the past;

Choco, Panama, July 2017. Although prototypes were found in the mid-1990s, the first drug-carrying sub wasn’t captured until 2006. Models have ranged from sealed and covered go-fast boats to fully functional submarines.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in February 2018, Admiral Kurt Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command, estimated that the U.S. intercepts only 25 percent of the drug subs coming to the U.S.

Cartagena, Colombia, October 2014

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