Second interdiction of Western Caribbean drug sub by Coast Guard

Coast Guard District 7 NewsMIAMI — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk, a medium-endurance cutter homeported in Key West, Fla., interdicted a drug smuggling, self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessel, commonly referred to as a drug sub, in the western Caribbean Sea Sept. 17.

Used regularly to transport illegal narcotics in the Eastern Pacific, this interdiction is only the second Coast Guard interdiction of an SPSS in the Caribbean. The Coast Guard’s first interdiction of a drug smuggling, SPSS vessel in the Western Caribbean Sea happened July 13.

The crew of a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules airplane spotted a suspicious vessel and notified the Mohawk crew of the location. The Hercules is designed for long range law enforcement patrols to allow identification and tracking of suspect vessels as well as search and rescue missions.

With the assistance of the Hercules crew, a Mohawk-based Coast Guard helicopter crew and pursuit boatcrew interdicted the SPSS and detained its crew. The SPSS sank during the interdiction, but not before a quantity of cocaine was recovered.

Built in the jungles and remote areas of South America, the typical SPSS is less than 100 feet in length, with four to five crewmembers, and carries up to 10 metric tons of illicit cargo for distances up to 5,000 miles. Drug traffickers design SPSS vessels to be difficult to spot and to rapidly sink when they detect law enforcement thereby making contraband recovery difficult.

“The use of self propelled semi-submersibles is relatively new in the Caribbean so it’s a serious operational challenge for the cutter fleet,” said Cmdr. Mark Fedor, Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk’s commanding officer. “They are a significant threat to our nation and our friends throughout Central and South America because they can smuggle massive amounts of narcotics as well as other illicit goods or people. I am proud of my crew for stepping up to this challenge. Through their professionalism and courage, we were able to stop millions of dollars of cocaine from reaching the streets of America. That’s why we’re out here.”

The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection, and partner nation aircraft and vessel crews work together to conduct counter drug patrols in the Caribbean.

“This is a great example of how our cutters and people stop threats to the United States long before those threats reach our shores,” said Rear Adm. Bill Baumgartner, commander of the 7th Coast Guard District. “Medium endurance cutters like the Mohawk are built for multi-week offshore patrols including operations requiring helicopter and pursuit boat capabilities. The bulk of the medium endurance cutter fleet is approximately 40 years old and slated for replacement by the new Offshore Patrol Cutter. In fact, Mohawk is the youngest of her type at 21 years old. The new cutters will ensure we continue to detect threats far from U.S. shores and meet the demands of the Coast Guard’s homeland security, search and rescue, and law enforcement missions.”

The case is under investigation. The contraband and suspects were turned over to other U.S. law enforcement agencies for disposition.

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