Cutter Alert Seizes $80 Million in Cocaine
The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Alert returned to their home port on Friday after a 60-day counternarcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific. They seized more than $80 million worth of cocaine during the deployment.
With the support from other agencies and from an embarked helicopter-borne sniper crew, the Alert interdicted two suspected drug smuggling vessels, yielding more than 5,700 pounds of cocaine. Seven suspected drug traffickers were apprehended in the two interdictions.
The Alert's crew received support from the U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection and Coast Guard maritime patrol aircrews, who provided the cutter with reconnaissance information and over watch during interdictions. A Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) aircrew and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Jacksonville, Florida, deployed aboard the Alert to assist the cutter’s boarding teams.
Alert’s crew have been deployed since early December, and they spent the holidays (and the government shutdown's pay gap) at sea. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason M. Vanderhaden called the cutter to speak with crew members.
“We are fortunate to have such a high spirited crew, happily celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve together," said Cmdr. Tobias Reid, Alert’s commanding officer. “But, above all, we are thankful for the incredible generosity from the Astoria, Warrenton/Hammond, and Seaside communities who provide such tremendous support to our families while we were on patrol.”
Alert is one of the 14 remaining Reliance-class cutters built for the Coast Guard during the Cold War, and she turns 50 this year. The cutter and her crew perform search and rescue, fisheries enforcement, environmental protection, and counter-drug missions throughout the Pacific Ocean, from the Canadian border to south of the Galapagos Islands.
The fleet of aging medium-endurance cutters are operating beyond their intended service lifespan and are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate. The Coast Guard will be phasing out its medium-endurance cutters with the new 360-foot offshore patrol cutter (OPC), now under construction at Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, Florida. Acquisition of OPCs is one of the Coast Guard’s highest investment priorities. The first hull in the series is scheduled for delivery in 2021.