Coast Guard Seizes 1.5 Tons of Cocaine After Hot Pursuit

COAST GUARD ISLAND, ALAMEDA, Calif. – While on a counter narcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chase detected a small contact traveling in excess of 30 knots northbound off the coast of Colombia. The Chase immediately began preparations to interdict the suspected go-fast vessel. A go-fast vessel is usually a powerful, custom-built, fiberglass boat with at least three outboard motors to traffic drugs at high speeds throughout the coastal and open ocean waters between South and Central America.

With Chase’s small boat and pursuit team geared up and ready for the pursuit, the Captain gave the word to begin the chase. Hopes were high and adrenaline pumping as Chases over-the-horizon cutter-boat slipped into the darkness on an intercept course. The night was pitch black, but with the strong guidance of the operations officer from deep within Chase’s Combat Information Center (CIC), the boarding officer and team were confident of success. The whine of the gas turbine roared to life as Chase surged ahead through the night hunting its prey.

Moments before sighting the go-fast vessel the pursuit team picked up the smell of gasoline, then suddenly came upon the wake of the high-speed boat. A pursuit crewman lit up the go-fast with a spot light. The engagement was on. Battling the crests and troughs of four-foot seas, the small boat was slammed with up to four Gs trying to maintain the pursuit; snapping an antenna and smashing a spotlight. The go-fast darted and dodged, maneuvering erratically, like a frightened gazelle with a cheetah on its heels.

Constantly vying for position through the darkness, the team relayed critical information about the vessel back to CIC onboard the Chase. The go-fast vessel conducted several maneuvers intended to reduce weight onboard the go-fast and increase its speed. The smugglers also began to jettison their valuable cargo. They threw the 50-pound bales (along with poles, tarps, and other debris) toward the pursuit team in an attempt to stop or disable their determined pursuers. “I thought they were going to throw a kitchen sink at us, since they’d thrown practically everything else.” said the pursuit coxswain who was at the throttles ensuring the safety of his team members.

Armed with all of the information being passed by the small boat on scene, Chase’s operations officer obtained permission to use force on the non-compliant vessel. The pursuit team fired a stitch of warning shots across the bow of the vessel. At speeds in excess of 35 knots and in seas of three to four feet, this was no easy task and required extensive training and practice.

“Leading up to using the warning shots I really had to collect myself to ensure I was stable, since we were in four-foot seas, and concentrating on getting my stitches across the go-fast’s bow since they were maneuvering erratically,” the pursuit gunner said.

Ultimately the go-fast reached Colombia’s territorial waters before disabling fire could be employed, but with the go-fast having jettisoned nearly 100 percent of its contraband, the Chase disrupted approximately more than 2,000-2,500 pounds of cocaine from reaching its destination. With a street value of approximately $31 million, this is only one of three successful intercepts so far this patrol. Chase is home ported in San Diego.

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