The US Coast Guard Disrupts Drug Cartel Operations, Seizes $216 Million in Drugs

September 22, 2020Joshua Skovlund
us coast guard

A US Coast Guard fast boat speeds by. Photo courtesy of Flickr/US Coast Guard.

The US Coast Guard partnered with the US Navy and the British Royal Navy to conduct 12 different counternarcotic missions from Aug. 27 to Sept. 8, 2020, and seized a total of approximately 12,100 pounds of cocaine and approximately 5,759 pounds of marijuana, according to a Coast Guard press release.

The seized drugs are estimated to be worth $216 million and were offloaded from the Coast Guard cutter Harriet Lane after it docked in Port Everglades, Florida. During the operation, two Coast Guard vessels, three US Navy vessels, and two British Royal Navy vessels operated in different areas of the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

“This large amount of drugs was seized in just a short 13-day span, shows just how serious the issue is,” Capt. Dorothy Hernaez, the commanding officer of the cutter Harriet Lane, said in the press release. “I am very proud of the efforts by not only the Harriet Lane crew, but also all the other Coast Guard, Navy, and British Royal navy assets involved in the interdictions. These crews overcame significant challenges related to COVID-19 to remain both operational and effective, in order to keep these drugs off our streets.”

us coast guard
The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air, Feb. 25, 2018. US Coast Guard photo, courtesy of DVIDS.

The interdictions, including the actual boardings, were led and conducted by members of the Coast Guard, according to the release.

The Coast Guard cutter Harriet Lane conducted three missions in the eastern Pacific Ocean and seized approximately 3,882 pounds of cocaine and 2,527 pounds of marijuana. Also in the eastern Pacific, the USS Pinckney — operating with an embedded Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) — carried out two missions, seizing 5,842 pounds of cocaine.

The Coast Guard cutter Escanaba conducted one mission in the eastern Pacific, seizing approximately 3,220 pounds of marijuana and approximately 11 pounds of cocaine. The British naval vessel HMS Medway with an embedded LEDET carried out two missions in the Caribbean Sea, seizing approximately 1,433 pounds of cocaine.

us coast guard
US Coast Guard members sit atop a seized semisubmersible suspected smuggling vessel in international waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean as the cutter Harriet Lane maneuvers nearby, Oct. 24, 2019. The semisubmersible was intercepted the previous day by the crew of the Harriet Lane. US Coast Guard photo by Patrick Kelley, courtesy of DVIDS.

Operating in the Caribbean Sea, each with an embedded LEDET, the British naval vessel RFA Argus carried out one mission, seizing approximately 789 pounds of cocaine; the USS Kidd recovered approximately 145 pounds of cocaine; and the USS Zephyr seized approximately 12 pounds of marijuana.

The US Southern Command started “enhanced” international multi-agency counternarcotics operations on April 1, 2020, in order to slow down or stop the flow of narcotics throughout the Western Hemisphere. The US Coast Guard, US Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and international allied agencies all participated in the counternarcotics operations over the approximately two-week time period.

There are three phases to counternarcotics operations, according to the press release: detection, monitoring and interdictions, and criminal prosecution. The 12 interdictions are being prosecuted through the Attorney’s Offices of the District of Puerto Rico, the Middle District of Florida, and the Southern District of Florida. Operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean fall under the jurisdiction of the US Coast Guard’s 11th District; operations in the Caribbean Sea are under its 7th District jurisdiction.

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.

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