SAN DIEGO — The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Active from Port Angeles seized more than 5,271 pounds of cocaine worth more than $78 million during a counter-drug patrol in international waters off Central America.
The crew of the 53-year-old Coast Guard cutter seized the drugs during two back-to-back interdictions off the coast of Central America on May 18 and May 19, the Coast Guard reported in a press release.
The drugs were expected to be offloaded in San Diego on Tuesday. They will be turned over to federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration for destruction.
The crew also apprehended six suspected drug smugglers during the interdictions who will be prosecuted in the United States, the Coast Guard said.
“I’m incredibly proud of this crew and their accomplishments. The success of this patrol is a testament to their hard work and dedication. Just to keep a 53-year-old ship in prime condition is a feat in and of itself, and they have done that and much more,” said Active’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Chris German.
During its patrol, Active has interdicted three “panga” style vessels and one pleasure craft, resulting in the seizure of more than three tons of illicit narcotics worth an estimated $95 million in wholesale, and apprehended 11 suspected drug smugglers, the Coast Guard said.
“The crew of Active should be proud of all they’ve accomplished to combat dangerous transnational criminal organizations that spread violence and instability throughout the Western Hemisphere,” said Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area.
“Their ability to complete the mission on this aging platform is a testament to their abilities as cuttermen and devotion to duty as Coast Guard women and men.”
The Active is a Medium endurance cutter (MEC) and currently operating beyond its expected 40-year service life.
The MEC class is considered the backbone of the Coast Guard’s fleet; however, engineering challenges have plagued the operations of these vessels in recent years, the Coast Guard said.
Medium endurance cutters are scheduled for replacement by the offshore patrol cutter (OPC), with construction of the first vessel beginning in 2018 and scheduled for completion in 2021.
“These cutters [OPCs] will eventually comprise 70 percent of Coast Guard surface presence in the offshore zone,” said U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft before the House Committee on Appropriations, Homeland Security Subcommittee in May 2017.
“Offshore patrol cutters will provide the tools to more effectively enforce federal laws, secure our maritime borders by interdicting threats before they arrive on our shores, disrupt TCOs, and respond to 21st century threats.”
MEC crews stopped nearly a third of all drugs seized by the U.S. Coast Guard in Fiscal Year 2017, more than 138,000 pounds, the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard removed more than 493,000 pounds of cocaine worth more than $6.6 billion in 2017, which was a new record for the service, up from 443,000 pounds of cocaine in Fiscal Year 2016.
This story was first published in the Peninsula Daily News.