Coast Guard Cutters Crews Interdict Smuggling Vessels
Coast Guard Pacific Area
Crews aboard two Alameda-based Coast Guard cutters interdicted
three suspected drug smuggling vessels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean
between Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2021 and seized more than 9,000 pounds
of cocaine worth an estimated $156 million.
operations were the crews of the Coast Guard Cutters Munro (WMSL
755) and Bertholf (WMSL 750).
Munro's crew boarded a fishing
vessel on Jan. 26, 2021 suspected of smuggling illicit narcotics.
Exercising a bilateral agreement with a partner nation, the boarding
teams searched and discovered 1,300 pounds of cocaine concealed
within the vessel.
Munro’s crew interdicted a second suspected drug smuggling vessel on Jan. 27, 2021 after a maritime patrol aircraft detected a suspicious
vessel and directed Munro’s crew towards it. Munro launched a
helicopter aircrew and boarding teams, and together they interdicted
a low-profile vessel. The boarding teams discovered 3,439 pounds of
cocaine aboard the purpose-built drug smuggling vessel.
A Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) boarding team boards a fishing vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean suspected of smuggling illicit contraband, Jan. 26, 2021. Exercising a bilateral agreement with a partner nation, the boarding teams searched and discovered 1,300 pounds of cocaine concealed within the vessel.
(U.S. Coast Guard photos courtesy of the Coast Guard Cutter
Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) boarding team members sit atop a low-profile vessel interdicted by the crews in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Jan. 27, 2021. The team discovered almost 3,500 pounds of cocaine aboard the purpose-built drug smuggling vessel. (U.S. Coast Guard photos courtesy of the Coast Guard Cutter Munro.)
"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."
1, 2021 Bertholf's boarding teams also interdicted a low-profile vessel,
seizing more than 4,380 pounds of cocaine.
Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) boarding teams interdict a low-profile vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, seizing more than 4,380 pounds of cocaine, Feb. 1, 2021.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf)
low-profile vessels specifically to evade law enforcement by being
difficult to detect. These vessels are built to 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
Nine suspected traffickers were taken into
custody between the three interdictions.
On April 1, 2020,
U.S. Southern Command increased counter-narcotics operations in the
Western Hemisphere to disrupt the flow of drugs. Numerous U.S.
agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland
Security cooperated in the effort to combat transnational organized
crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI,
Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies,
play a role in counter-drug operations.
The fight against
drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean requires
unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and
interdictions, to criminal prosecutions for these interdictions by
United States Attorney's Offices from the Middle District of
Florida, the Southern District of Florida and the Southern District
of California. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling
operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the
authority of the 11th Coast Guard District, headquartered in
Alameda. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led
and conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Bertholf are two of four 418-foot Legend-class national security
cutters homeported in Alameda. National security cutters have a crew
of more than 150 and are among the largest and most technologically
sophisticated vessels in the Coast Guard's fleet. The cutters can
operate globally in the most demanding open ocean environments, from
the North Pacific's hazardous fishing grounds to the Eastern
Pacific's vast approaches, where its crews battle transnational
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