MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The U.S. Coast Guard off-loaded seven tons of cocaine, worth nearly $180 million, seized from a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel in St. Petersburg on Friday.
The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk, from Key West, interdicted the so-called “drug sub” in the Western Caribbean Sea on September 30th.
It was the second time in 13 days the crew stopped a drug sub. These drug subs are used regularly to transport illegal narcotics in the Eastern Pacific but this is only the third time the Coast Guard has stopped a drug sub in the Western Caribbean Sea.
The first happened July 13th.
The semi-submersible sub sank during the interdiction along with all of the drugs. Coast Guard crews and a specially trained dive team found the sub and its contraband on October 19th.
“The interdiction of a third SPSS in the Caribbean brings to a close an extremely successful fiscal year for the Coast Guard here in Southeast U.S. and Caribbean,” said Rear Adm. Bill Baumgartner, commander of the 7th Coast Guard District. “Working with our interagency and international partners, we detained 98 smugglers and prevented 60,064 pounds of cocaine and 4,412 pounds of marijuana with a combined street value of $727 million from reaching our streets.”
Built in the jungles and remote areas of South America, the typical SPSS is less than 100 feet in length, with four to five crewmembers, and carries up to 10 metric tons of illicit cargo for distances up to 5,000 miles.
Drug traffickers design SPSS vessels to be difficult to spot and rapidly sink when they detect law enforcement, thereby making contraband recovery difficult.
“This is the second self-propelled semi-submersibles case for this crew and I am extremely proud we were able to stop millions of dollars of cocaine from reaching the streets of America,” said Cmdr. Mark Fedor, Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk’s commanding officer. “They are a significant threat to our nation and throughout Central and South America because they can smuggle massive amounts of narcotics as well as other illicit goods or people and we will continue to be out here and stand a vigilant watch.”