MIAMI — Vessels from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Honduran Navy intercepted a sinking self-propelled semi-submersible vessel in the Western Caribbean Sea on March 30.
Partner nations are participating in Operation Martillo, a joint effort of Western Hemisphere and European nations to curtail illicit trafficking routes on both coasts of the Central American isthmus.
A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Miami aircrew, working in the Caribbean in support of JIATF-S Operation Martillo, spotted a suspicious vessel and notified 7th Coast Guard District watchstanders of the location.
The pursuit boat crews aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutters Pea Island and Decisive interdicted the self-propelled semi submersible and detained four suspected smugglers. The seized vessel sank during the interdiction.
“Medium endurance cutters like the Decisive are built for multi-week offshore patrols including operations requiring enhanced communications, and helicopter and pursuit boat operations,” said Capt. Brendan McPherson, 7thCoast Guard District chief of enforcement. “When combined with patrol boats like the Pea Island, which has superior speed and flexibility, it helps us and our partners to provide the Coast Guard’s unique blend of military capability, law enforcement authority, and lifesaving expertise wherever needed to protect American interests.”
Self- propelled semi-submersible vessels are used regularly to transport illegal narcotics in the Eastern Pacific, and this interdiction is only the fifth Coast Guard interdiction of a vessel of this type in the Caribbean. The Coast Guard’s first interdiction of a drug smuggling, SPSS vessel in the Western Caribbean Sea happened July 13, 2011.
Built in the jungles and remote areas of South America, the typical semi-submersible is less than 100 feet in length, with four or five crewmembers, and carries up to 10 metric tons of illicit cargo for distances up to 5,000 miles. Drug traffickers design these types of vessels to be difficult to spot and to rapidly sink when they detect law enforcement, thereby making contraband recovery difficult.
The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection, and partner nation aircraft and vessel crews work together to conduct counter drug patrols in the Caribbean Sea. The Decisive is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Pascagoula, Miss.
The Pea Island is a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in Key West, Fla.
Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States are participating in Operation Martillo, which started in the middle of January 2012.