Portsmouth, Va. – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Legare returned to Portsmouth, Virginia, Wednesday following a 48-day patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean where the crew seized more than1800 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value of $59.5 million.
During the patrol, Legare interdicted three vessels transporting cocaine and detained ten suspected drug smugglers. Two of these interdictions involved the use of engine- disabling gunfire to stop suspected smuggling vessels after they ignored both orders to stop and warning shots. The engine-disabling fire was employed by aircrews of the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, based in Jacksonville, Florida.
Legare supported the interdiction of a fourth smuggling vessel by launching its HITRON helicopter to assist the Coast Guard Cutter Forward, also homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia, in their pursuit of a suspect vessel. Together, Forward and Legare ultimately interdicted the suspected smuggling vessel and seized approximately 600 kilograms of cocaine onboard. The three suspected smugglers were detained by Legare,
While transiting to the Eastern Pacific, Legare encountered two separate unseaworthy migrant vessels in the Florida Straits and saved the lives of 16 Cuban migrants. In both cases Legare’s crew worked with Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber, a new fast response cutter homeported in Miami, Florida.
Overall coordination of patrols for detection and monitoring of suspected smuggling operations is done by the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, an international operation bringing together air, land, and maritime assets from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and international partners. The law enforcement phase and interdiction of suspected smuggling vessels in the Eastern Pacific region occur under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District.
Coast Guard Cutter Legare and Forward are 270-foot medium endurance cutters. The medium endurance class routinely deploys along the southern approaches to the U.S. conducting search and rescue, migrant interdiction, fisheries enforcement and counter-drug operations.
The medium endurance class is set to be replaced in the coming years by the offshore patrol cutter fleet, with the first being released in 2021. The OPC will utilize modern technology to increase mission effectiveness and reduce maintenance costs. On September 15, 2016 Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. of Panama City, Florida was awarded a contract valued at more than $110 million to build the first OPC and up to 8 additional OPCs. The Coast Guard plans to produce 25 OPCs to replace the aging medium endurance fleet.