Coast Guard Cutter Sherman interdicts $153 million of cocaine; takes four into custody

Coast Guard Cutter Sherman

Cutter Sherman - Coast Guard File Photo

EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Sherman interdicted a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel (SPSS) and took four people into custody 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica April 3, 2011. The SPSS and its crew were carrying an estimated 5.8 metric tons of cocaine.

At approximately 10 a.m., the Sherman spotted the suspect SPSS about half a mile away. A Sherman crewmember noticed a man on top of the SPSS who appeared to be acting as a lookout. Within two minutes, three more men wearing life vests appeared on the small deck of the SPSS. Shortly thereafter, the SPSS slipped under water with all four men seen floating in its wake.

As the Coast Guard observed these developments, the Sherman’s law enforcement boarding teams prepared to intercept the vessel. The boarding teams approached the men and brought them safely aboard the cutter. The boarding team also noticed and recovered two bales floating within the vicinity of the SPSS. The bales tested positive for cocaine.

An extensive search of the area yielded six more bales and three bricks of cocaine, which together totaled 93 kilograms and disrupted an additional 5,700 kilograms with an estimated value of more than $153 million.

“The crew has been training hard in preparation for our Counter Drug mission and the hard work and vigilance was apparent that morning when our amazingly alert watchstanders on the bridge detected the extremely low profile of the SPSS over a half mile distant,” said Capt. Michael Haycock, commanding officer of the Sherman. “Our motivated boarding teams and boat crews responded quickly to save the lives of the crew members and bring aboard the evidence. I couldn’t be more proud – the whole Sherman team worked together like a well-oiled machine and prevented these drugs from reaching our streets.”

Self-propelled semi-submersibles are a class of vessels 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. SPSS crews often scuttle their vessels before the Coast Guard can interdict them.

The cutter Sherman is a 378-foot high-endurance cutter homeported in Alameda, Calif. Its crew conducts missions in Homeland Security, Search and Rescue, Maritime Law Enforcement, and Drug and Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations from the Bering Sea to South and Central American waters.

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