Rising threat of drug subs in the Caribbean

Since 1890, anti-narcotic laws and smuggling threats have changed drastically, with transnational crime organizations using varying tactics and techniques including go-fast vessels and semisubmersible vessels to smuggle drugs into the United States.

No comments
A self-propelled semi-submersible vessel underway in the Caribbean Sea Sept. 17, 2011. The SPSS was interdicted by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
A self-propelled semi-submersible vessel underway in the Caribbean Sea Sept. 17, 2011. The SPSS was interdicted by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

It was Aug. 31, 1890, when U.S. Revenue Cutter Wolcott’s boarding party went aboard the U.S.-flagged steamer George E. Starr. Sounds like a pretty boring entry from a history article, right? But there was one thing that made this boarding far from routine – opium.

The boarding was the first recorded narcotics seizure by a U.S. revenue cutter. Wolcott’s crew seized both the vessel and the opium, however the opium was seized because it was undeclared, rather than because of anti-narcotic laws. Since that first opium seizure in 1890, anti-narcotic laws have changed significantly. Even more drastic is the evolution of smuggling tactics and techniques used by today’s transnational crime organizations.

It is this evolution in drug smuggling and the Coast Guard’s capabilities to combat maritime threats that the U.S. Naval Institute featured in a recent story.

Today, most drugs departing source countries go by sea — covered by tarps on the decks, of small “go fast” speedboats; hidden below the decks of fishing vessels; or concealed in secret compartments on board commercial vessels. Beyond these methods, a threat has emerged, particularly in the Caribbean littorals where TCOs are using self-propelled semi submersible vessels (SPSSs) or drug subs. Criminals design these “drug subs” for one purpose — to deliver multi-ton loads of pure cocaine bound for U.S. shores, streets and schools.

Head over to the institute’s website to read more about the Coast Guard’s efforts in detection and interdiction of drug subs.

Leave a Reply