SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Coast Guard offloaded more than 25 tons of cocaine seized in the Eastern Pacific Ocean drug transit zone off the coast of Central and South America.
The contraband, hauled from the decks of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf at the Port of San Diego Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, was seized in 24 vessel interdictions and two bale recoveries between late July and early November by five Coast Guard Cutters and one Canadian navy vessel with a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement team aboard. The load is valued at more than $765-million.
“I am tremendously proud of all the Coast Guard men and women who serve aboard these cutters, and those from the many partner agencies and nations who teamed with them to stop these drugs from flowing across the oceans,” said Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. “They put their lives on the line to protect our nation and others from ruthless criminals who leave a wake of violence and instability wherever they operate. These interdictions – and the hundreds of millions of dollars, tons of drugs, and many trafficker prosecutions they represent — help disrupt the violent transnational criminal organizations that threaten the security of the U.S. and the entire western hemisphere.”
Of the busts represented by the offload, Bertholf was responsible for 11, the largest being some 7.5 tons discovered aboard a self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) intercepted August 31. The other interdictions ranged from approximately 300 to 2,000 pounds, from 23 “go-fast” panga boats and two bale recoveries, by four other U.S. Coast Guard cutters and one Royal Canadian navy ship: Coast Guard Cutter Valiant which was responsible for five, Coast Guard Cutter Seneca, four; Coast Guard Cutter Active, three; Coast Guard Cutter Thetis, two; and HMCS Brandon with an embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment, one.
U.S. Coast Guardsmen operating from cutters, U.S. Navy ships and international partner nation ships seized more than 158,000 pounds of cocaine in the Eastern Pacific drug traffic zone in fiscal year 2015 — more than the totals in 2012, 2013 and 2014 combined.
Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime including the Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, DEA, and ICE. Allied and international partner agencies play an important role in counter drug operations. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in California, on the East Coast, and in the Caribbean.
Transnational organized crime groups are vying for control of illicit trafficking routes and power in numerous Latin American countries, resulting in increased violence and instability. This has led to record high homicide rates in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean; 8 of the 10 countries with the highest homicide rates in the world are in this region.
The Coast Guard has increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied military or law enforcement aircraft or vessels. The actual interdictions, including the boarding, search, seizures and arrests, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Pacific are conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda.
The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf is a 418-foot national security cutter homeported in Alameda, California.