CHARLESTON, S.C. – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter James returned home to Charleston, South Carolina, Friday following a 60-day, multi-mission patrol.
During its maiden voyage, James’ crew contributed to the interdiction of 12 drug-smuggling vessels, detainment and subsequent arrest of 22 suspected drug smugglers and were responsible for the seizure of more than five tons of cocaine bound for the United States. James used its embarked helicopter to employ airborne use of force on three high-speed, drug-smuggling vessels – more than 40 miles apart – within a two-hour period of time.
“James’s first operational patrol was incredibly successfully and I couldn’t be more proud watching them leverage the full range of our capabilities to overcome a variety of challenges and complete our missions,” said Captain Mark Fedor, commanding officer of James.
James’ crew offloaded approximately 16 tons of cocaine at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Tuesday. This cocaine was seized by multiple Coast Guard units in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and has wholesale value of more than $466 million.
“The amount of narcotics we seized is merely a glimpse into the true danger of transnational criminal organizations. The smugglers were not just carrying cocaine; they were delivering violence, corruption and instability to a part of the world that just can’t absorb it,” said Fedor. “Those problems will eventually manifest on our borders. We did more than just stop drugs; we kept those threats as far from our shores as possible.”
During the patrol, James’ embarked helicopter from Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron based in Jacksonville, Florida, marked its 500th interdiction using airborne use of force and precision disabling fire.
“I am extremely proud of the crew of Coast Guard Cutter James and our embarked HITRON aviation detachment for a highly successful inaugural patrol,” said, Vice Adm. Karl Schultz, commander of Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “Our persistent maritime presence in drug trafficking zones from cutters like James enables us to interdict bulk quantities of drugs at sea, preventing criminal networks’ illicit cargoes from reaching the shores of Central America, and land routes into the United States.”
Joint Interagency Task Force-South, a national task force under U.S. Southern Command, oversees the detection and monitoring of illicit traffickers and assists U.S. and multi-national law enforcement agencies with interdiction of these activities. These law enforcement operations are led and conducted by the Coast Guard and agencies from allied and partner nations under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District in Alameda, California.
The Coast Guard Cutter James is one of two 418-foot National Security Cutters homeported in Charleston. With its robust command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, the NSC is the most technologically advanced ship in the Coast Guard’s fleet. NSCs are equipped with three state-of-the-art small boats and a stern boat launch system, dual aviation facilities, and serve as an afloat command and control platform for complex law enforcement and national security missions involving the Coast Guard and numerous partner agencies.