MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) — Millions of dollars worth of cocaine will not hit the streets of South Florida, or anywhere else for that matter, after the Coast Guard made another high seas drug seizure.

The Coast Guard offloaded 719 kilos of cocaine, worth more than $23 million, Thursday afternoon at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach. “It is a lot of drugs that could affect a lot of people in Miami, Chicago and other cities across the U.S.,”  said Cmdr. Timothy Cronin with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The drugs were confiscated during a September 8 interdiction.

While on routine patrol, the crew of the Cutter Bear spotted a suspicious 208-foot cargo vessel in international waters northeast of Panama.

“They noticed a raised flag of a foreign nation when we contacted that nation they did not recognize it as one of their own and that gave us some suspicion they were up to no good,” said Cmdr. Cronin.

After boarding the ship, the crew found multiple packages of contraband throughout the ship. Officials say hundreds of bricks of cocaine were tightly wrapped and stashed in hidden compartments, buckets and bags.

Thirteen people aboard the ship were taken into custody and transferred to the U.S. State Attorney in Tampa to face drug trafficking charges.

This seizure marks the third time in recent weeks in which large quantities of illegal narcotics were seized from cargo vessels.

“Drug smuggling organizations continually try to shift their tactics to avoid interdiction by the Coast Guard,” said Cmdr. Timothy Cronin, Deputy Chief of Enforcement for the Coast Guard 7th District.  “Our goal is to prevent illegal drugs from reaching American shores and to reduce the destabilization effects they have on our neighboring countries in Central America. We will continue to lawfully stop and search vessels we suspect may be involved in maritime illicit trafficking.”

On August 28th, the Coast Guard seized 1,500 kilos of cocaine worth nearly $50 million from a 165-foot Panamanian-flagged coastal freighter.

On Aug. 10th, the Coast Guard found 973 kilograms of cocaine worth more than $32 million aboard a 226-foot Panamanian-flagged freighter while patrolling off the coast of Haiti.

All of these interdictions were part of Operation Martillo, an international effort to stop the flow of illicit drugs and this year alone more than 2 billion dollars worth of drugs has been seized.

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Marybel Rodriguez

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