Coast Guard Cutter Midgett returns from patrol after interdicting semi-submersible with cocaine

SEATTLE – The Coast Guard Cutter Midgett returned from a multi-mission patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Tuesday, where they interdicted a 35-foot self propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessel carrying approximately 6,000 kilograms of cocaine, more than 335 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, on 20 Jan 2011.

Self propelled semi-submersibles are a class of vessel used for smuggling large loads of narcotics across the ocean from South America to Central America. The vessels ride very low in the water, and are generally made of fiberglass making them very difficult to detect either visually or by radar.

When law enforcement assets arrive on scene, no movement was visible on the SPSS. Cutter Midgett dispatched a boarding team in its small boat, attempted to hail the vessel in English and Spanish, and knocked on the hull with no response. After three hours alongside the vessel, night had fallen and for the safety of the boarding team it was decided that the vessel board would be delayed until the next day. Suddenly, the hatch atop the central conning tower swung open and hands were visible as one of the crewmembers slowly came out of the SPSS

Cutter Midgett’s law enforcement team closed with the vessel, and ordered all personnel out of the SPSS onto the hull. SPSS crews are known to scuttle their vessels upon evacuation, therefore Cutter Midgett prepared for people to be thrown or to jump into the water. Cutter Midgett immediately put its second small boat in the water, and the two law enforcement teams quickly brought all four SPSS crewmembers safely onboard the cutter.

Once onboard, the SPSS crew stated that the vessel was from Colombia and the purpose of the voyage was to transport cocaine.

The next morning, upon entry into the vessel, an estimated 300 bales of contraband was discovered. The boarding team removed one of the 20 kilogram bales from the SPSS and a sample tested positive for cocaine.

The cutter Midgett is home ported in Seattle, Wash. and conducts missions in homeland security, search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, and drug and alien migrant interdiction operations from the Bering Sea to Central American waters.

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