MIAMI — Coast Guard Cutter Dependable offloaded 1,210 pounds of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value of more than $14 million to Homeland Security Investigations in Key West, Fla., Tuesday.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) Jacksonville, Fla., deployed with the Coast Guard Cutter Forward, noticed two suspicious vessels detected in the vicinity of Guanaja, Honduras Dec. 6, 2012.
The cutter Forward and Coast Guard Cutter Confidence were diverted and launched their two smallboat crews to stop and board the go-fast vessels.
During the pursuit, the aircraft crew observed a go-fast crewmember jettison multiple packages in the water. The HITRON helicopter employed warning shots and disabling fire to compel the vessels to stop. The Forward and Confidence smallboat crews subsequently arrived on scene, boarded the two vessels, and detained eight suspected smugglers.
The 22 packages were recovered from the water and later tested positive for cocaine.
“Seizures at sea are the most efficient and cost-effective way to keep contraband off the streets of America,” said Cmdr. Timothy Cronin, 7th Coast Guard District assistant chief of enforcement. “The crews of the Forward and Confidence performed admirable during these interdictions. As part of Operation Martillo, they successfully denied drug smugglers from bringing illegal narcotics into the Central American transhipment route and ultimately prevented these drugs from crossing national borders.”
Operation Martillo is a joint, interagency, international operation designed to deny transnational criminal organizations air, land and maritime use of Central American transshipment routes for illicit drugs, weapons and cash.
Medium endurance cutters like the Confidence, Forward and Dependable are slated for replacement by new Offshore Patrol Cutters. The new OPCs will operate more than 50 miles from land, carrying out the Coast Guard’s maritime security and safety activities in support of national interests. The OPC will be an economical, multi-mission ship, providing pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities and interoperability with other military and federal partners, superior to the cutters they replace. Equipped with modern sensors, the OPCs will provide the enhanced surveillance necessary to detect threats far from U.S. shores and meet the demands of the Coast Guard’s homeland security, search and rescue, law enforcement and other vital missions.
The Coast Guard Cutter Forward is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter, homeported in Portsmouth, Va.
The Confidence is a 210-foot, medium-endurance cutter homeported in Port Canaveral, Fla.
The Dependable is a 210-foot, medium-endurance cutter homeported in Cape May, N.J.