Coast Guard offloads 36,000 lbs of cocaine seized from Eastern Pacific Ocean

Pallets of seized suspected contraband sit on the deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf prior to being offloaded by Bertholf’s crew at B Street Pier, San Diego, March 20, 2018. Over 36,000 pounds of cocaine was seized in 17 interdictions by five different cutters in the Eastern Pacific between February and early March. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon/released).

Pallets of seized suspected contraband sit on the deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf prior to being offloaded by Bertholf’s crew March 20, 2018.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon).

SAN DIEGO — The Coast Guard offloaded approximately 36,000 pounds of cocaine Tuesday, which was seized during a counter-drug patrol in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The contraband offloaded by the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s (WMSL-750) crew represents 17 interdictions of suspected smuggling vessels off the coasts of Central and South America by five Coast Guard cutters between early February and early March.

“This offload by the Bertholf represents the great work being conducted in the Eastern Pacific combating the transnational organized crime groups, behind the drug trade which spread instability, fear and harm to people, communities and entire nations,” said Rear Adm. Todd Sokalzuk, the 11th Coast Guard District commander, who oversees the law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific region. “Thanks in part to the to the hard work and dedication of the brave crew men and women of the Bertholf, and other ships on patrol, we’re seizing record amounts of cocaine for the third year in a row.”

In addition to Coast Guard crews, numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense and Justice along with allied and international partners agencies are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime.  The fight in the Eastern Pacific requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to prosecutions by the Department of Justice and partner nations.

“I’m proud of the hard work and dedication of my crew, as well as the crews of Coast Guard Cutters Bear, Diligence, Harriet Lane, Venturous and the joint and interagency personnel who work hand-in-hand to secure our nation,” said Capt. John Driscoll, the Bertholf’s commanding officer. “These crews worked around-the-clock to seize this load of contraband that denies traffickers about half a billion dollars’ worth of illicit proceeds that would have gone to fund the nefarious work of transnational criminal organizations, helps prevent a great deal of human suffering and will likely save hundreds of lives that would have been lost to these illegal drugs.”  

The bulk offload consisted of seized drugs from 17 interdictions by crews aboard the following Coast Guard cutters:

  • Coast Guard Cutter Venturous, one case, estimated 2,877 pounds.
  • Coast Guard Cutter Bear, three cases, estimated 9,016 pounds.
  • Coast Guard Cutter Diligence, three cases, estimated 3902 pounds.
  • Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, four cases, estimated 5,103 pounds.
  • Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane, six cases, estimated 15,434 pounds.

As part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy, the Coast Guard has increased its presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug-transit zones off of Central and South America. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by U.S. and allied, military or law enforcement personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boarding, are conducted by Coast Guard members.

Bertholf is a 418-foot national security cutter homeported in Alameda. Venturous is a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida. Diligence is a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Wilmington, North Carolina. Bear and Harriet Lane are 270-foot medium-endurance cutters homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia.

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