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Colombian Navy Seizes 3 Tonnes of Cocaine in 20th Semisub Bust of 2023

Colombian Navy patrol vessel with 3 tonnes of cocaine
Courtesy of Colombian Navy

Published Oct 12, 2023 8:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Colombian Navy is celebrating its 20th semi-submersible seizure of the year with a remarkable 3.3 tonne cocaine bust, the service announced Tuesday. 

Colombia is the leading nation of origin for cocaine, and it exported a record 1,700 tonnes of the expensive drug last year, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Wholesale prices are highest in Australia, Europe and the United States, and the price per kilo increases more than tenfold when transported from Colombia to the developed world. Criminals in the smuggling value chain have a powerful motive to move product through the countertrafficking drag net, even if hundreds of tonnes get caught by the authorities every year. 

The latest bust occurred off Tumaco, a remote port near the Ecuadorian border which is known for smuggling. Through the Colombian Navy's own planning, a semi-submersible carrying 3.3 tons of cocaine was intercepted. During the interdiction, the boat filled with "excessive toxic smoke," and the boarding team pulled the occupants to safety, the service said. Once it was secure, the team extracted about 200 bundles of drugs, which contained 3,300 one-kilo bricks of cocaine hydrochloride. 

Three men - aged 33, 50 and 57 - were captured aboard the smuggling boat and arrested. They were brought to shore at the Tumaco Coast Guard Station and handed over for prosecution. 

The Colombian Navy has seized a total of 30 tons of cocaine aboard 20 semisubmersibles so far this year, along with other busts involving other vessel classes. The number is a small contribution to Colombia's grand total: in 2022, the Colombian government captured a record 780 tonnes of cocaine, more than any other nation.