U.S. Coast Guard Seizes Drug-Laden Semi-Sub

ALAMEDA, Calif.— More than 4,500 kilograms of illegal narcotics were removed from a semi-submersible vessel in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, by crewmembers of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Jarvis and other U.S. law enforcement agency personnel, with assistance from Guatemalan authorities Saturday following the seizure of the low-profile smuggling vessel by the Jarvis last week.

While on routine patrol in the Eastern Pacific off the coast of Central America, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Maritime Patrol Aircraft detected the self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) in international waters. The 378-foot cutter Jarvis was on patrol in the area, intercepted the SPSS and then found that the vessel was loaded with narcotics. The crew of the Jarvis seized the SPSS and detained the four crewmembers.

U.S.authorities coordinated with their Guatemalan counterparts and arranged for the seized vessel, cargo and crew to be brought to Puerto Quetzal for a more detailed inspection and processing of the detainees and evidence. Initial field tests of the contraband indicated the presence of cocaine, heroin and possibly other substances. Further testing will be conducted as the evidence is processed. The case will be prosecuted in the United States.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom visited the Jarvis while in Puerto Quetzal to thank Capt. Aaron Davenport, commanding officer of the Jarvis, and his crew for their outstanding work. Davenporthosted the president and his official party aboard the Jarvis, provided them a view of the seized SPSS and contraband, then together with Colom briefed the media on the interdiction.

“The crew performed superbly,” said Davenport. “From the interdiction of the SPSS, detention of suspects, rigging the vessel for a 190-mile tow to Guatemala and ultimately the arduous duty of offloading more than five tons of contraband,” he said.

“We appreciate the cooperation and support of the Guatemalan authorities,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Castillo, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s 11th District. “President Colom’s visit to the cutter Jarvis was an honor for the captain and crew and reflects the strong partnership our nations enjoy in the fight to stem the flow of illegal narcotics,” he said

“The crew of the Jarvis, as well as their partners in CBP Air and Marine Branch and the Joint Interagency Task Force South, should be proud of their excellent work in this case,” Castillo said. “They successfully intercepted the vessel, took the suspected smugglers into custody, and ensured that the semi-submersible remained afloat for a full inspection and extraction of the narcotics. Towing this low-profile, partially submerged craft into port was no small feat and speaks to a high level of seamanship on the part of the commanding officer and crew,” he said

The Jarvis is homeported in Honolulu and is one of several U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and partner nation vessels that conduct counter drug patrols in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Coast Guard works closely with other U.S federal agencies and countries within the region to disrupt and deter the flow of illegal drugs from Central and South America to the United States. Seizures in the Eastern Pacific accounted for almost 90 percent of all U.S. maritime drug intercepts in fiscal year 2009.

Overall coordination of detection and monitoring for interdiction operations is conducted by the Joint Interagency Task Force South headquartered in Key West, Fla. The actual intercept and seizure of suspected smuggling vessels in the Eastern Pacific is carried out under the tactical command and law enforcement authority of the U.S. Coast Guard 11th District, headquartered in Alameda, Calif. or by law enforcement agencies of partner nations in the region.

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