U.S. and Canada team up for five and a half ton cocaine seizure

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell crewmembers maneuver the ship's interceptor boat while patrolling in the Eastern Pacific in early March, 2015. More than five-and-a-half tons of narcotics from a coastal freighter were interdicted by the Boutwell crew along with the U.S. and Royal Canadian navies in a joint operation.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell crewmembers maneuver the ship’s interceptor boat while patrolling in the Eastern Pacific .

ALAMEDA, Calif. ­­­­— The largest maritime cocaine seizure in the Eastern Pacific Ocean since 2009 was seized by the U.S. Coast Guard along with the U.S. Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and a Joint Interagency Task Force in early March. More than five and half tons of contraband thrown overboard from a small coastal freighter was recovered in international waters off the coast of Costa Rica.

When the USS Gary (FFG-51), on routine patrol in the region with a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment aboard, approached the freighter the ship’s crew was observed throwing bales of contraband into the sea. The freighter later stopped and was boarded by Coast Guard personnel.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell (WHEC-719) and the Canadian navy vessel HMCS Whitehorse (MM-705) joined the operation to provide additional U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement teams to search the vessel, retrieve contraband from the ocean, and coordinate transfer of the suspects ashore. An exhaustive search of the freighter revealed no additional bales of cocaine, but those retrieved from the ocean amounted to approximately 11,000 pounds. A U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol Aircraft also assisted in the operation helping to locate floating contraband and providing communications support.

“This is dangerous work,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. “I send my deepest appreciation to the men and women on the front lines who risk their lives to stop these drugs from reaching our streets and the streets of our partner nations. It takes dedication and professionalism to counter the destructive and corrosive work of the transnational criminal organizations behind the drug trade. We must work as one to stop such large shipments of deadly drugs, and this interdiction is a testament to the tenacity of our Coast Guard, Navy and Canadian navy crews in the field, and of those ashore providing support and coordination.”

Interdictions of multi-ton loads of drugs in the maritime transit zone of the Eastern Pacific ocean typically occur several times each year. The bust is one of the largest in the region since 2009 when the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Jarvis (WHEC-725) intercepted a semi-submersible craft in the Eastern Pacific carrying approximately five tons of cocaine.

Since 2010 the Coast Guard and partner agencies have stopped more than one million pounds of cocaine at sea in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Caribbean. The largest U.S. at-sea cocaine bust on record occurred in the Eastern Pacific in 2007 when the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sherman (WHEC-720) discovered approximately 21 tons of contraband aboard the Panamanian registered vessel Gatun.

Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific is done by a Joint Interagency Task Force headquartered in Key West, Florida. U.S. maritime law enforcement and the interdiction phase of operations in the region occur under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda, California.

USS Gary and the Cutter Boutwell are homeported in San Diego. HMCS Whitehorse is based in Esquimalt, British Columbia.

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