A captured narco sub
The U.S. Coast Guard has seized a narco sub (pictured), a homemade drug-smuggling submersible craft, in the Caribbean for the first time. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The United States Coast Guard has intercepted a “narco sub” off the coast of Honduras in the Caribbean, the first of its kind intercepted by the Coast Guard in the Atlantic. Drug runners are becoming increasingly brazen, as more of these vessels are being found all the time.

 

More than 7 tons of cocaine aboard homemade submarine

One of the strategies employed by drug smuggling narco-cartels is trying to smuggle drugs via the sea using homemade submarines, commonly referred to as a “narco sub.” A narco sub is often constructed using fiberglass, according to ABC, and many are built in remote jungle areas in Colombia. The subs typically are no more than 100 feet in length, can carry up to 10 tons of cocaine or other illicit cargo and capable of carrying four to five crew members several thousand miles. One such craft was recently discovered by the United States Coast Guard off the coast of Honduras. It’s the first time the Coast Guard intercepted such a craft in the Caribbean. The crew were abandoning ship as the cutter Seneca came alongside the semi-submersible. Divers recovered 7.5 tons of cocaine, worth approximately $180 million.

Rare find

The craft, which coast guard personnel refer to as a Self-Propelled Semi-Submersible or SPSS, was sighted by an aircraft that alerted the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol on July 13. The Coast Guard was dispatched to intercept the vessel, and as the Seneca came alongside the sub, the crew scuttled the ship and took to a life raft. They are now in the custody of U.S. authorities, according to CBS. Divers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched for the craft on the sea-bottom until discovering it on July 26, when they began bringing up the illicit cargo. Narco subs are estimated to smuggle up to one-third of all cocaine that arrives in the U.S. via Colombia and Mexico. The subs are usually employed in the Pacific, as they are often built in areas in Colombia controlled by FARC, the militant guerrilla organization that controls large swaths of Colombia’s jungles and coastal areas.

Most go undiscovered

Only 10 percent of these craft, according to Wikipedia, are believed to be caught in the act. More of them are being found all the time. Honduran authorities, according to the Huffington Post, seized one on July 14 near the Nicaraguan coast, arresting five men and seizing up to five tons of cocaine. According to USA Today, the Coast Guard cutter Midgett intercepted a drug sub in January carrying 6.6 tons of cocaine, worth almost $140 million. Another was found near Costa Rica on April 3, according to the Alameda Sun. According to the Houston Chronicle, a narco sub was discovered in Ecuador in 2010 that was fully capable of submerging and cruising at a depth of 50 feet. A similar, fully submersible sub was found in Colombia this February, according to the New York Daily News. A fully submersible drug sub is estimated to cost $2 million to build.

Sources

ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/narco-75-tons-cocaine-caught-caribbean/story?id=14205749

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/08/01/national/main20086321.shtml

Wikipedia on Narco subs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narco_submarine

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/14/honduras-narco-sub_n_898432.html

USA Today: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2011/05/coast-guard-cutter-nabs-mini-narco-sub-packed-with-6-tons-of-cocaine/1

Alameda Sun: http://www.alamedasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8452&Itemid=10

Houston Chronicle: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/chronicle/7415756.html

New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2011/02/15/2011-02-15_colombian_military_seizes_fullysubmersible_100foot_drug_sub_capable_of_holding_8.html

 

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