On Friday, the Coast Guard cutter Hamilton offloaded more than 26 tons of cocaine at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the fruits of a three-month interdiction mission off of South and Central America. The street value of the seizures is just over $700 million – enough to cover the Hamilton's construction cost.
“This not only showcases the threat posed by dangerous cartels, gangs and criminal groups that make up extensive transitional organized crime networks, but it also highlights the commitment of the Coast Guard and its interagency partner’s efforts to detect, interdict, investigate and prosecute operatives for these criminal networks,” said Vice Adm. Karl Schultz, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, in a statement.
Intercepts at sea are generally more high-impact than those onshore, Coast Guard officials say, because they allow authorities to confiscate large quantities at once. When shipments reach shore, they are broken up and sent overland to smaller local markets, making them harder to track down.
Hamilton's deployment began in the Caribbean, where she participated in relief efforts in Haiti after the passage of Hurricane Matthew: her helicopter and small boat crews provided transportation for the U.S. ambassador and for the president of Haiti during the response.
She spent the majority of her voyage in the eastern Pacific, where she intercepted eleven vessels and seized 10 tons of cocaine – the largest contribution to the total offloaded in Miami on Friday. The balance was confiscated by Coast Guard law enforcement teams embarked on the cutters Mellon, Forward, Dependable, Active and Dauntless, and on the Canadian Navy vessels Edmonton and Brendon.
The Hamilton's success follows on the heels of the Coast Guard's record-setting antidrug actions last year, which netted nearly 200 tonnes of cocaine and 465 suspects over the 12 months ending September 30. The service noted that the tonnage it seized at sea outstripped the total seized on land by all U.S. agencies by a factor of three.
The Coast Guard says that over the past two years, it has increased personnel and resources in known drug transit zones, added intelligence and investigative resources and strengthened its international partnerships targeting transnational organized crime in the Western Hemisphere.