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Photos: Two Cutters Seize $150M in Cocaine in the Eastern Pacific

smuggling
The cutter Bertholf interdicts a low-profile smuggling boat, February 1 (USCG)

Published Feb 17, 2021 4:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

The cutters Munro and Bertholf intercepted three smuggling boats in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in the last week of January, seizing more than 9,000 pounds of cocaine with an estimated value of more than $150 million.

On January 26, Munro's crew boarded a fishing vessel registered to a nation which has a law enforcement partnership agreement with the United States. Upon boarding, the Munro's team discovered 1,300 pounds of cocaine within a concealed compartment. 

Images courtesy USCG

Just hours later, Munro intercepted a low-profile smuggling boat which had been spotted by a maritime patrol aircraft. Munro launched a helicopter aircrew and boarding teams, and together they interdicted the second vessel, discovering more than 3,400 pounds of cocaine. Low-profile speedboats are specifically designed with a very low freeboard and a camouflage color scheme in order to evade the authorities. They are built to carry large, high-value shipments of cocaine. 

Munro's crew intercepts a low-profile smuggling boat (image courtesy USCG)

"Having back-to-back cases lasting 31 hours pushed our limits, but our crew took on the challenge," said Capt. Blake Novak, commanding officer of the Munro. "Cartels are cunning and sophisticated, and this is a dynamic environment."

On February 1, the cutter Bertholf also intercepted a low-profile vessel, seizing more than 4,400 pounds of cocaine. Between the three interdictions, a total of 9,000 pounds of cocaine and nine suspected traffickers were taken into custody. 

Bertholf's crew interdicts a low-profile vessel, February 1 (USCG)

The seizures add to an exceptional string of counter-narcotics successes in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, with four Coast Guard and Navy patrol vessels offloading a combined total of nearly $700 million worth of drugs in the first two weeks of February alone.