Working with the Colombian Navy and Air Force, U.S. Navy and Coast Guard forces aboard USS Ingraham (FFG 61) captured a semi-submersible vessel packed with $107 million worth of cocaine in the Eastern Pacific in May.
The seizure of such a vessel – classified as a Self-Propelled Semi-Submersible – is a significant feat for U.S. and multinational forces that conduct year-round counter illicit trafficking operations in the waters off Latin America and the Caribbean.
When the semi-submersible was tracked by Ingraham and visually located by its SH-60B Seahawk helicopter and rigid-hulled inflatable boat, the suspected traffickers punctured their hull in an attempt to scuttle the craft.
A U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment from Ingraham boarded the semi-submersible, detained the crew and gained control of the sinking vessel. Ingraham then quickly arrived on the scene and brought the semi-submersible alongside the ship. As the Colombian navy worked to tow the vessel into port, Sailors from Ingraham worked to pump water out of the slowly sinking semi-submersible and kept the vessel afloat long enough to retrieve the contraband loaded inside.
The Coast Guard said the semi-submersible was transporting about 2,380 kilograms of cocaine worth $107 million. Three suspects who crewed the semi-submersible were taken into custody.
The semi-submersible and cocaine seizure was part of Operation Martillo, a multinational effort targeting illicit traffickers and the movement of narcotics, precursor chemicals, bulk cash, and weapons in Central American waters.
Units involved from Ingraham include Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 49 and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment. Ingraham is homeported in Everett, Washington.
Press Release, June 12, 2014; Image: US Navy