Coast Guardsmen seize more than 2 tons of cocaine from semisubmersible

WaescheSAN DIEDGO, Calif. – Coast Guardsmen seized more than 5,600 pounds of cocaine and apprehended five suspected drug smugglers from a self-propelled semi-submersible, or SPSS, in the Pacific Ocean off Central America September 6.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Waesche from Alameda, California, in partnership with a Joint Interagency Task Force South patrol aircraft from the U.S. Navy, intercepted a suspected drug smuggling vessel, which was laden with more than $73 million worth of cocaine. This seizure marks more than 416,600 pounds of cocaine worth over $5.6 billion that has been intercepted by the Coast Guard in Fiscal Year 2016, which ran from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2016.

“With every interdiction, we learn more about transnational organized crime networks that generate profit and proliferate power from a laundry list of illicit activities,” said Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area. “Coast Guard men and women not only keep drugs off U.S. streets, but they combat the influence of these criminal networks that spread violence and instability throughout the Western Hemisphere.”

Coast Guardsmen from Waesche launched two pursuit vessels with boarding teams and an armed helicopter crew to interdict the SPSS. Five suspects were removed from the SPSS and were apprehended by Coast Guardsmen. The suspected smugglers apparently attempted to scuttle the SPSS as water filled the smuggling vessel to just below the helm. Two Waesche crewmembers boarded the SPSS and began dewatering the vessel, which reduced the water level enough to allow boarding officers to safely remove over 5,600 pounds of cocaine from the SPSS.

“Our Coast Guardsmen face significant risks posed by dangerous criminal organizations,” said Capt. James Passarelli, commanding officer, Coast Guard Cutter Waesche. “Our crew preserved valuable evidence and kept millions of dollars of illicit narcotics off America’s streets.”

In Fiscal Year 2016, the Coast Guard has interdicted six SPSS vessels. These vessels are constructed for illicit trafficking with a mostly submerged hull; a cockpit and exhaust pipe are visible just above the water. SPSS vessels are extremely difficult to detect and interdict because of their low profile.

Both Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016 were marked by multiple SPSS interdictions. These interdictions and other cases contributed to the Coast Guard removing more than 416,600 pounds of cocaine in Fiscal Year 2016, a record for the service.

This is the first SPSS interdiction by Waesche’s crew, which seized nearly 21,800 pounds of cocaine in Fiscal Year 2016. This is the seventh SPSS interdiction for the Coast Guard’s 418-foot National Security Cutters, the service’s newest and most capable major cutter class. This seizure marks nearly 86,000 pounds of cocaine, worth more than $1.5 billion, that has been intercepted by Alameda-based Coast Guardsmen in Fiscal Year 2016.

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