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Coast Guard, Colombia Navy Interdict 7.5 Metric Tons of Suspected Drugs In Western Caribbean Sea

Coast Guard, Colombia Navy Interdict 7.5 Metric Tons of Suspected Drugs In Western Caribbean Sea

By U.S. Coast Guard Public Affairs
July 07, 2020

The U.S. Coast Guard and partner agencies interdicted approximately 1,500 packages testing positive for cocaine on a motor vessel approximately 74 kilometers northeast of Panama, June 8, 2020.

While on routine patrol, a Coast Guard HC-130 Maritime Patrol Aircraft crew detected a suspect motor vessel traveling northeast of Panama. The Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant (WMEC 617) crew launched an Over the Horizon small boat with an embarked law enforcement team, who proceeded to board the vessel and discovered the vessel was taking on water.

Pictured are interdicted packages that tested positive for cocaine near Panama, June 8, 2020. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

The cutter Vigilant sent a rescue and assistance team aboard, who were able to contain the source of flooding at the request of the motor vessel crew. The cutter Vigilant’s law enforcement team continued the boarding and discovered general cargo that was suspected of containing contraband. After completing the initial boarding, a further inspection was completed in port to more fully access the cargo and cargo holds.

Coordinating with Colombian authorities, the cutter Vigilant crew placed the motor vessel in tow and transferred the vessel to the Colombian coast guard and navy. The Colombian navy continued the boarding pier side and discovered over 7,575 kilograms of suspected contraband. Lab test reports yielded positive hits for cocaine, which validated both the efforts of the Vigilant crew and the Colombian partners. As final lab testing continues, this drug seizure is predicted to be worth up to $286 million.

“Despite the various challenges our crew faced during this multi-day boarding, they demonstrated the utmost professionalism and resiliency, identifying numerous indicators of contraband in arduous conditions while preserving the seaworthiness of the vessel,” said U.S. Coast Guard Commander Fred Bertsch, commanding officer of the Vigilant. “We are extremely appreciative of the coordination and substantial efforts undertaken by our Colombian partners to continue the law enforcement efforts where we left off. As transnational criminal organizations continue to adapt their techniques and procedures, we will continue to work with our partner nations to thwart their illicit activities in the region.”

On April 1, U.S. Southern Command began enhanced counternarcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere to disrupt the flow of drugs in support of Presidential National Security Objectives.

“As we address the persistent threats our Nation faces across our maritime approaches, the success of this highly collaborative operation speaks to the value of our relationship with our valued international partner, Colombia, and of the mutual successes we achieve when we coordinate our efforts,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Eric C. Jones, commanding officer of the Seventh District. “We look forward to continuing to build and strengthen our relationships with other Caribbean Basin nations as we strive to be the regional partner of choice.”

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