Coast Guard offloads 26.5 tons of cocaine seized in Eastern Pacific Drug Transit

Members of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton crew stand next to approximately 26.5 tons of cocaine Dec. 15, 2016 aboard the cutter at Port Everglades Cruiseport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The crew of the Coast Guard Hamilton offloaded the cocaine in Port Everglades worth an estimated $715 million wholesale seized in international waters off the Eastern Pacific Ocean since Oct. 1, 2016. Coast Guard photo by Eric D. Woodall

Members of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton crew stand next to approximately 26.5 tons of cocaine Dec. 15, 2016. Coast Guard photo by Eric D. Woodall

MIAMI — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton offloaded approximately 26.5 tons of cocaine in Port Everglades Thursday worth an estimated $715 million wholesale value seized in international waters off the Eastern Pacific Ocean since Oct. 1.

The drugs were interdicted along Central and South America by Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy ships sailing with embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) teams aboard.

The offload represents 27 separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions and five bale recovery operations by Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Navy crews and its interagency partners:

  • The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton was responsible for 11 cases, seizing an estimated 10.3 tons of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Mellon was responsible for seven seizures and two bale recoveries for an estimated 5.5 tons of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Forward was responsible for one seizure for an estimated 1.7 tons of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Dependable was responsible for four seizures for an estimated 2.8 tons of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Active was responsible for one bale recovery operation for an estimated 2.2 tons of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless was responsible for three seizures for an estimated 3.4 tons of cocaine.
  • The Royal Canadian Ship HMCS Edmonton and a Coast Guard LEDET were responsible for two seizures and one bale recovery operation for an estimated 1,500 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Royal Canadian Ship HMCS Brendon and a Coast Guard LEDET were responsible for one bale recovery operation for an estimated 1,540 pounds of cocaine.

“This not only showcases the threat posed by dangerous cartels, gangs and criminal groups that make up extensive transitional organized crime networks, but it also highlights the commitment of the Coast Guard and its interagency partner’s efforts to detect, interdict, investigate and prosecute operatives for these criminal networks,” said Vice Adm. Karl Schultz, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area.

“Hamilton’s cargo this morning represents the combined efforts of the multi-national coalition, led by the U.S. Coast Guard, which is working to stem the tide of the narcotics trade in the Caribbean Basin,” said Commodore Craig Baines, commander, Royal Canadian Naval Atlantic Fleet. “It is a tangible example of our collective efforts to keep narcotics off our streets while at the same time promoting regional security.”

Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with allied and international partner agencies play a 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.

“The 53,000 pounds of seized cocaine coming off our decks today is the product of partnerships and the collaboration of U.S. Southern Command, the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State, and Justice and the Royal Canadian Navy,” said Capt. Scott Clendenin, commanding officer Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton. “When pursuing modern maritime smugglers, seconds count, and each of these interdictions involved a collaborative effort of joint, interagency, and international aircraft and vessels, against stealthy well coordinated fast moving smugglers.”

The Coast Guard 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 personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boarding, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guard men and women. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific are conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda.

The cutter Hamilton is a 418-foot National Security cutter homeported in Charleston, South Carolina. The cutter Mellon is a 378-foot high-endurance cutter homeported in Seattle. The cutter Forward is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Norfolk, Virginia. The cutters Dependable, Active and Dauntless are 210-foot medium-endurance cutters homeported in Virginia Beach, Virginia; Port Angeles, California; and Galveston, Texas respectively. HMCS Edmonton and HMCS Brandon are Kingston Class coastal defense vessels based in Esquimalt, British Columbia.

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