Two boats pursue the narco sub at pace hundreds of kilometres off the Colombian and Ecuadorian coast.
With waves crashing against the hull, two commandos from US Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) jumped on the moving vessel. Video released by the authorities on Thursday shows one guardsman pounding the hatch of the vessel with his fist and trying to open the hatch yelling “Stop your boat now!” in Spanish. The hatch opens, with the raised hands of a suspected trafficker emerging from within, before the video ends.
The patrol by the three cutters across large swaths of the Eastern Pacific confiscated more than 18,000 kilograms of cocaine — plus 423 kilograms of marijuana — that officials estimate is worth $569 million on the street, Navy Times reported.
Self-propelled submersible vessels, often called “narco-subs,” are sometimes used by cartels and traffickers to smuggle drugs across borders.
The operation, which occurred June 18, was one of 14 drug-smuggling vessels intercepted off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America by three Coast Guard cutters between May and July of this year. A total of 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana, were seized in that time, for an estimated worth of $569 million, according to a press release Thursday.
Vice President Mike Pence was there as Coast Guard members unloaded the seized drugs in San Diego on Thursday. The operations will lead to the prosecution of 55 alleged smugglers, according to Pence.
“Make no mistake about it, Coasties, your courageous service is saving American lives,” Pence told service members Thursday.
To help combat drug smugglers on the high seas, Pence pointed to recent and robust budgets for the Coast Guard.
“We are committed to fully funding our Coast Guard and replacing old ship with new ones, just like the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Munro,” he said. “Get ready, more help is on the way.”
Homeported in Alameda, California, the $487 million Legend-class Munro was commissioned two years ago.
Some of the 55 suspected drug smugglers will be transferred to federal authorities while others will be given to international authorities to be prosecuted in their home countries, the Coast Guard said.
The June seizure was part of the Coast Guard Cutter Munro’s first drug patrol since it was commissioned two years ago. The new vessel is one of six state-of-the-art cutters added to the Coast Guard fleet in recent years and another two have been commissioned in Hawaii, the military branch told NBC News.
About 70 percent of the Coast Guard’s fleet is made up of medium endurance cutters, which are about 50 years old and require costly maintenance.