Once occurring only in the Pacific, semi-submersible vessels used for illegal smuggling have been spotted three times in the last four months in the Caribbean. Smugglers in million-dollar "drug subs" are ferrying mass quantities of contraband to U.S. destinations.
The three captures have boosted the Coast Guard's cocaine seizure rate for fiscal-year 2011 to record levels. The total contraband from the subs was worth more than $500 million wholesale, the Coast Guard said.
For the fiscal year that ended Oct. 1, the Coast Guard has interdicted 60,064 pounds of cocaine offshore. More than two-thirds of that total came from the three drug subs, one caught in July and two in September.
By contrast, last fiscal year the Coast Guard seized 44,800 pounds of cocaine. For the previous year it was 49,057. But that was before the subs appeared in the Caribbean.