U.S. Coast Guard crews have interdicted three suspected drug smuggling vessels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and seized more than 9,000 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $156 million.
The interdictions took place between January 26 and February 1 involving the Coast Guard Cutters Munro (WMSL 755) and Bertholf (WMSL 750).
In the first incident, Munro’s crew boarded a fishing vessel January 26 suspected of smuggling illicit narcotics. A boarding teams searched the vessel and discovered 1,300 pounds of cocaine. Munro’s crew interdicted a second suspected drug smuggling vessel hours later after a maritime patrol aircraft detected a suspicious vessel. Munro launched a helicopter aircrew and boarding teams, and together they interdicted a low-profile vessel. A boarding teams discovered 3,439 pounds of cocaine aboard the purpose-built drug smuggling vessel.
“Having back-to-back cases lasting 31 hours pushed our limits, but our crew took on the challenge,” said Capt. Blake Novak, commanding officer of the Munro. “Cartels are cunning and sophisticated, and this is a dynamic environment, which required interagency and international coordination which yielded results. I am proud of our crew, but these successes would not be possible without our Central and South American partnerships.”
On February 1, Bertholf’s boarding teams also interdicted a low-profile vessel, seizing more than 4,380 pounds of cocaine.
Nine suspected traffickers were taken into custody between the three interdictions.
Cartels design low-profile vessels to evade law enforcement and ferry large quantities of illicit contraband while riding low in the water.
“The crew continues to impress me as they rise above challenges, stand a taut watch, and conduct themselves in a professional manner as we go about our business of stemming the flow of narcotics in the Eastern Pacific,” said Capt. Brian Anderson, commanding officer of the Bertholf. “I could not be more pleased with the overall teamwork between the aircraft, our small boats, and my crew in the interdiction of this drug laden vessel. Together we are making a difference.”
Munro and Bertholf are two of four 418-foot Legend-class national security cutters homeported in Alameda.