Coast Guard Cutter Thetis returns home after seizing $140 million of cocaine in Pacific Ocean

The embarked helicopter crew who were essential to mission success by stopping non-compliant vessels.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Anderson.

The embarked helicopter crew who were essential to mission success by stopping non-compliant vessels. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Anderson.

KEY WEST, Fla. — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Thetis returned home to Key West, Florida, Sunday after an exciting and eventful 65-day patrol operating off the coast of Central and South America.

Thetis, a 270 foot cutter based out of Key West, Florida, is a multi-mission platform. Over the last 65 days the cutter and her crew transited through the Panama Canal in order to conduct operations supporting diverse Coast Guard missions, primarily drug interdiction, in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Coast Guard drug interdiction accounts for nearly 52 percent of all U.S. government seizures of cocaine each year. The Coast Guard has a long history of drug interdiction, dating back to 1890 when the Revenue Cutter Wolcott seized opium on board the steamer George E. Starr.

As the Coast Guard nears its 225th anniversary of drug interdiction, Thetis takes pride in carrying out these missions. Early in the patrol, Thetis intercepted a go-fast vessel transporting approximately 700 kilograms of cocaine. Over the next several days the crew of the Thetis stopped three more go-fast-vessels and a fishing vessel seizing an additional 3,280 kilograms of cocaine. Towards the end of its patrol Thetis intercepted another fishing vessel carrying 670 kilograms of cocaine.

In total, Thetis’ crew disrupted and interdicted six vessels suspected of drug smuggling, detained 15 suspected narco-traffickers and recovered over 4,650 kilograms of illegal narcotics worth an estimated wholesale value of $140 million.

Maritime Enforcement Specialist First Class, Charles Kinnear, one of Thetis’ boarding officers stated, “These high speed and highly visible boarding’s are one of the most dangerous missions we face. As a team we acted expeditiously to secure the vessels and the suspects engaged in violations of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act.”

These interdictions were carried out as part of Operation Martillo, which is one component in the United States government’s whole-of-government approach to countering the use of 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 agencies to counter this illicit trafficking.

In addition to conducting drug interdiction operations, the Thetis’ crew had an opportunity to support the Coast Guard’s Living Marine Resource mission. Coast Guard objectives include promoting the recovery of marine protected species and their habitats. Thetis crewmembers worked together to free a 50 pound green sea turtle tangled in debris and fishing line. The crew was able to save the sea turtle and clean up the line preventing future environmental hazards.

The deployment in the Pacific Ocean was a unique opportunity for Thetis, whose crew is normally deployed throughout the Caribbean Sea in support of similar missions. “The pace of operations, mission success, Panama Canal transit and new area to explore were a welcome of change of scenery for the entire crew. This patrol was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that our shipmates will not forget,” said Cmdr. Kathy Felger, Thetis’ commanding officer.

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