The Coast Guard cutter Steadfast returned Tuesday after a nearly two-month drug patrol along the West Coast of the Pacific Ocean and a record seizure of cocaine.
The crew of the 210-foot medium endurance cutter intercepted five suspected smuggling boats and seized more than 23,000 pounds of cocaine, a record for a vessel of its size on a single deployment, according to the Coast Guard.
The 154-foot Coast Guard fast-response cutter Robert Ward took in about 3,000 pounds, bringing the value of the drugs seized by the two ships on the deployment to an estimated $350 million. It was the first drug seizure by a smaller fast-response cutter in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
“This was 26,000 pounds of cocaine that will not make it to the main streets of the (U.S.), and it also gives us the opportunity to make sure we can continue to combat transnational criminal organizations who transport this cocaine deep in the Pacific every single day,” Rear Adm. Peter Gautier, the 11th Coast Guard District commander, said in a news release. “Because we know that with a supply chain of illegal narcotics, at every single step there’s violence, instability and despair.”
The Coast Guard increased U.S. and allied presence in the eastern Pacific and Caribbean Sea, known as drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions, a suspect vessel is initially detected and monitored by allied, military or law enforcement personnel. The 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda, California, oversees counter-smuggling operations.