FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The Coast Guard offloaded more than 18 tons of seized cocaine at Port Everglades Thursday morning.
The drugs, worth nearly half a billion dollars on the street and about estimated $498 million wholesale, were seized along Central and South America in the eastern Pacific by crews of several Coast Guard cutters and a Royal Canadian Navy ship.
The hefty load was offloaded from the largest and most technologically sophisticated ship in the Coast Guard – the U.S. Hamilton.
The U.S. Hamilton is fittingly named after the man who advised Congress to create a force of ships to guard our coasts from smugglers trying to dodge taxes. Alexander Hamilton, the founder of the Coast Guard, probably never imagined this.
The Coast Guard said the offload represents 20 separate drug smuggling vessel interdictions.
“The 18.5 tons of seized cocaine coming off our decks today is the product of partnerships and the collaboration of U.S. Southern Command, Joint Interagency Task Force-South, the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State and Justice, the Canadian Navy and many of our international maritime service partners,” said Capt. Scott Clendenin, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton. “Building international partnerships is at the heart of this effort.”
The role of the U.S. Coast Guard has changed since 1790, and today, they’re on the front line of keeping drugs from making it to our shores.
Captain Clendenin said a lot has changed in the 27 years he’s been running missions.
“Running drugs in much larger bulk, they didn’t have to hide them on larger vessels. They also did not have to use a lot of innovative tactics just because we had to develop our own tactics,” said Clendenin.
It’s also become a lot more dangerous.
“These are criminal organizations. You’re never sure what will happen when you encounter a smuggler at sea. That’s why the men and women behind me spend a lot of time training to be ready to confront the smugglers,” Clendenin.
“They’re all exciting and it can be scary, but like captain said, we’re trained for those situations and we know how to handle them,” said Petty Officer Cody Rochus.
A number of U.S. agencies are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime – the Departments of Defense Justice and Homeland Security allied with the Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
As for their latest bust, the U.S. Hamilton will finish offloading the drugs in Fort Lauderdale and then head up North to Fleet Week in New York.