MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Quite a haul onboard a U.S. Coast Guard ship that docked at Port Everglades early Tuesday morning.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter James was loaded with approximately 16 tons of cocaine, worth an estimated $420 million, that was seized in international waters.
The drugs were seized in 17 separate suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions in the eastern Pacific along the coasts of Central and South America by Coast Guard and Canadian ships.
The cutter James and the agency’s helicopter interdiction squad were responsible for five seizures, netting an estimated 5.19 tons of cocaine.
“With this ship, we’re capable of owning the night,” said the James’ Captain Mark Fedor.
Fedor said the technological advances on the ship, along with the men and women who work in the dark and dangerous conditions, make them a force to be reckoned with at sea.
Captain Keith Gavin, who over seas the helicopter squadron, said they average about 12 interdictions a month.
“As I like to say, unfortunately, business is good for us. And I wish it wasn’t,” said Gavin.
The cutter Mohawk had seven interdictions, bringing in an estimated 5.79 tons of cocaine. The cutter Tampa was responsible for three cases, seizing about 3 tons of cocaine while the cutter Sherman was responsible for one case, seizing about a ton of the illegal white stuff.
The HMCS Saskatoon, which carried a Coast Guard interdiction team, also had one case and seized an estimated one ton of cocaine.
Fedor said most of the missions to seize the drugs do not involve violence but, on occasion, warning shots are fired or shots are fired to disable a boat’s engine.
No matter the dark of night, the bad weather or the rough conditions, Fedor said his talented crew stays focused on the safety of our streets and fulfilling the mission at hand.
“They’re the ones willingly put themselves in harm’s way to execute these missions in the middle of the night. They bring this ship to life. They animate it, they give it personality. They’re the heroes of this story,” said Fedor.
Stopping the flow of cocaine from South America, where the cocoa crop is thriving, is important for many reasons, according to Fedor.
“They’re just not carrying cocaine. They’re delivering violence, corruption, and instability to a part of the world – the Western Hemisphere – that just can’t afford it,” he said.
More the 30 suspected drug smugglers were arrested during the seizures and have been sent to various jurisdictions in the U.S. for prosecution.