Families and friends welcomed home Coast Guard Cutter Legare this weekend, just in time for Easter. Before pulling into homeport, however, they made a stop in Miami to offload $110 million worth of cocaine from two separate interdictions.
The first interdiction occurred in the Caribbean Sea March 15 when a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment aboard Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Glace Bay identified a vessel suspected of smuggling drugs. The Glace Bay was working with the law enforcement detachment as part of a mission with Joint Interagency Task Force South.
The vessel was boarded by the law enforcement detachment, but no drugs were found. During the boarding, the vessel caught fire and sank with all passengers aboard the vessel safely disembarked. A subsequent search of the general area located approximately 97 bales containing approximately 2,400 kilograms of cocaine floating in the water. The bales were worth an estimated wholesale value of $80 million.
The second interdiction occurred March 19 when crewmembers aboard Legare pursued a go-fast vessel in the southwest Caribbean Sea. An embarked, armed Coast Guard helicopter crew launched and fired warning shots in attempt to get the suspects to stop. The helicopter crew then fired at one of the engines prompting the suspected smugglers to jettison 900 kilograms of cocaine, worth an estimated wholesale value of $30 million.
A law enforcement team from the Legare boarded the vessel and verified it was Colombian-flagged, with five Colombian nationals aboard. The five suspects were transferred to Colombian forces for further processing.
These interdictions were part of Operation Martillo, which is one component in the United States government’s whole-of-government approach to countering the use of the Central American littorals as transshipment routes for illicit drugs, weapons and cash. Operation Martillo is an international operation focused on sharing information and bringing together air, land and maritime assets from the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and Western Hemisphere and European partner nation agencies to counter illicit trafficking.
Since Oct. 1, 2013 the Coast Guard has seized 14,756 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value $492 million.