The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), intercepted approximately two tons of cocaine being smuggled aboard two fishing vessels while on routine patrol off the coast of Central America.
The Coast Guard LEDET on board directed the Vandegrift’s Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) team in boarding the first fishing vessel, finding approximately 1,000 individually wrapped packages of cocaine hidden within the hull of the ship.
“The seamless integration of Vandegrift’s crew, air detachment, and Coast Guard LEDET was simply amazing,” said Cmdr. Luis Alva, commanding officer of Vandegrift. “I am humbled and honored to serve with such an exceptional team.”
Following recovery operations, Vandegrift launched a SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter, piloted by Sailors from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light (HSL) Squadron 49 Detachment 3, in search of additional smugglers in the area.
Within 24 hours Vandegrift was underway to another interception and under the guide of the Coast Guard LEDET, stopped another smuggling vessel. Hidden within the hull, the VBSS team discovered 35 large burlap sacks containing substances that tested positive for cocaine.
“After making our first drug seizure of the deployment, our team was able to quickly reset and make a second seizure the very next day,” said Lt. Cmdr. Daryl Robin, executive officer of Vandegrift. “Back to back busts are rare occurrences, but our team was up for the challenge and performed flawlessly.”
The first fishing vessel, which was taking on water with no functioning bilge pumps, was declared unseaworthy and was safely sunk.
Being seaworthy, the second vessel was towed to Costa Rican waters and turned over to the possession of the Costa Rican Coast Guard.
Press Release, June 26, 2014; Image: US Navy