Coast Guard offloads $135 million of cocaine in St. Petersburg, Fla.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute offloaded 168 bales of cocaine at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg Thursday.

The cocaine, worth more than $135 million, was seized during four separate drug interdictions in the Caribbean Sea.

The interdictions occurred during a two-month period and were a direct result of Operation Martillo. Operation Martillo (Spanish for ‘hammer’) is a U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.

While on patrol in the Caribbean Sea March 20, crewmembers aboard the USS Elrod located a fishing vessel. The Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment, attached to the Elrod, boarded the vessel, located 18 bales of cocaine, and detained four suspects.

The four suspects were transferred to U.S. law enforcement agents in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Still on patrol in the Caribbean Sea April 20, crewmembers aboard the USS Elrod located a go-fast vessel. The Elrod and Coast Guard LEDET crewmembers recovered 89 bales of contraband, which later tested positive for cocaine.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean Sea, the Coast Guard Cutter Legare made two, go-fast interdictions in a 48-hour period. Legare’s embarked helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron based in Jacksonville, Fla., spotted a go-fast vessel with three crewmembers aboard and bales on deck May 12. Crewmembers from the Legare recovered four bales and one kilogram of cocaine. Five bales of cocaine from one of the interdictions was offloaded in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, May 25.

“The ability of flight deck equipped ships combined with HITRON capabilities is a robust force multiplier in counter-narcotics strategy,” said Cmdr. Kevin Carroll,commanding officer of the Legare. “This well-matched combination of assets allows us to effectively and efficiently interdict drugs in the transit zone, far from U.S. shores. Interdiction here, in the open ocean, is important because we’re preventing the drugs from ever reaching land where loads are typically dispersed into smaller shipments for transport via land borders and are more difficult to detect.”

While conducting a law enforcement patrol in the Western Caribbean Sea May 17, crewmembers aboard the USS Elrod located another go-fast vessel. The Coast Guard LEDET attached to Elrod boarded the vessel, located 10 loose kilograms of cocaine onboard, retrieved 57 bales of cocaine from the water, and detained five suspects.

The cocaine was transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute, which returned home Thursday following an eight-week deployment in the Western Caribbean in support of counter-narcotics and search and rescue operations.

The five suspects were transferred to U.S. law enforcement agents in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Resolute crewmembers also responded to a distressed U.S. sailboat 90 miles east of Providencia Island, Colombia. The vessel had a torn sail, no engine or steering capability, and its emergency generator would not start. The cutter’s rescue and assistance team repaired the steering, motor and generator, allowing the three American sailors and their dog to safely continue their voyage.

The Coast Guard operates in a demanding, dynamic and unforgiving environment that requires modern, capable vessels to meet national objectives. The 47-year-old Resolute and the other 16 medium endurance cutters are slated for replacement by a new class of cutters. The new Offshore Patrol Cutter will operate more than 50 miles from land, carrying out the Coast Guard’s maritime security and safety activities in support of national interests. The OPC will be an economical, multi-mission ship, providing pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities and interoperability with other military and federal partners, superior to the cutters they replace. Equipped with modern sensors, the Offshore Patrol Cutter will provide the enhanced surveillance necessary to detect threats far from U.S. shores and meet the demands of the Coast Guard’s homeland security, search and rescue, law enforcement and other vital missions.

The cutter Resolute is a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in St. Petersburg.

The cutter Legare is a 270-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Va.

The USS Elrod is a 453-foot guided missile frigate from Norfolk, Va.

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