FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The U.S. Coast Guard offloaded more than 26 tons of cocaine at Port Everglades Thursday morning.
It’s one of the largest drug-offloads in their history. The Coast Guard said the cocaine is worth about $2 billion on the streets or about $715 million wholesale.
Coast Guard Vice Admiral Karl Schultz says the Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy conducted 22 interdictions in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean near South and Central America over the past few months.
“We take those drugs out of the Central American corridor. When those drugs get ashore, they’re associated with tremendous degrees of violence and criminal activity and they have a tremendous destabilizing effect in the region,” he said.
The Cutter Hamilton, which was on its maiden voyage, led the way. It’s the first national security cutter stationed on the east coast of Florida for the Coast Guard.
The captain of the vessel said for a new ship this is a very satisfying day.
“Commissioning a new ship is a remarkable amount of work and to actually see it come to full fruition and then come back with this type of success for the crew is just very, very gratifying but it’s also very tiring,” said Capt. Scott Clendenin.
That means they have the technology and capability to remain at sea for long stretches and can take part in these long term operations.
“You see narcotics that we’ve been able to interdict in bulk. By interdicting it out in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean in tons, we actually are able to interdict in a capacity that we just can’t do on the streets,” Schultz said.
About 100 suspected drug smugglers were also arrested, some of those cases will be prosecuted in South Florida.
The Coast Guard has increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy.
The agency says they’re relying on better intelligence to stop it.
“We have the best command of information and intelligence that we’ve ever had going after these networks, these transnational criminal networks,” Schultz said.
And now the crew of the Hamilton will get a much deserved break.
They’re headed back to their home port of Charleston, South Carolina where they’ll have some vacation time.
The Coast Guard says these drug interdiction efforts will continue and they are looking at adding drones to their investigative repertoire.