US Coast Guard Cutter Diligence crewmembers offloaded approximately 1,800 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated wholesale value of more than $50 million in St. Petersburg, Saturday.
The offload is a result of a drug interdiction in the Caribbean by Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma crewmembers in August.
While on routine patrol, Tahoma crewmembers detected and intercepted a 226-foot tanker suspected of smuggling contraband. The Tahoma crew launched a Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and small boat to the tanker. Coast Guard law enforcement officers seized 60 bales of contraband, which later tested positive for cocaine.
The tanker, contraband and suspected smugglers were turned over to federal law enforcement officials in St. Petersburg.
“This offload sends a direct message to those that seek to exploit a disaster to smuggle contraband at sea, that our operations continue to support border and national security,” said Rear Adm. Peter Brown, commander of the Coast Guard’s 7th District. “While we continue to support hurricane response efforts, our interagency partners at the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice remain focused and committed to dismantling these criminal organizations.”
The Coast Guard increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of the Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspected vessel is initially located and tracked by allied military or law enforcement personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Caribbean Sea are conducted under the authority of the 7th Coast Guard District headquartered in Miami, Fla.
The cutter Diligence is a 210-foot Medium Endurance cutter homeported in Wilmington, North Carolina.
The cutter Tahoma is a 270-foot Medium Endurance cutter homeported in Kittery, Maine.
The Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew is based in Jacksonville, Florida.