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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Nearly 35,000 pounds of cocaine was offloaded Tuesday by the Coast Guard at Port Everglades.

The drugs were seized in 21 separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions off the coasts of Mexico and Central and South America by several different Coast Guard cutters.

“What you see behind us has saved lives in the United States, it has resulted in disrupted criminal networks,” said Admiral Craig Faller with US Southern Command.

The seizures were part of a coordinated operation which involved multiple agencies including the US Navy.

Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz said these missions are always dangerous.

“Generally there’s a chase involved with small boats, a chase and sometimes this ship will deploy a small boat or we chase them from the air. Most of the operations occur at night, they try to move under the darkness of night,” said Schultz.

The Coast Guard cutter Forward seized an estimated 14,207 pounds of cocaine in seven interdictions.

The crews of cutter Hamilton was responsible for five seizures totaling an estimated 9,460 pounds of cocaine. The cutter Campbell crew had four interdictions, seizing an estimated 6,153 pounds of cocaine.

The Coast Guard Cutter Alert was responsible for two seizures, hauling in an estimated 5,736 pounds of cocaine.

The cutters Venturous and Confidence had one seizure each for a total of a little more than 2,100 pounds of cocaine.

Much of the work was done while the government was partially shut down and Coast Guard crews were not getting paid.

“During the five-week partial government shutdown, these men and women were away from their families, a lot of things on their mind but they kept their head in the game, they stood the watch,” said Schultz.
“We patrol on Thanksgiving, Christmas, on New Years and to be away from family during these special holidays and to come back with this, it makes everything worth while,” said Lt. Francisco Muniz, who serves as a ship chaplain and translator.

The seized cocaine has an estimated street value of $466 million.