Smuggling vessel sent to the bottom

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The U.S. Coast Guard seized a semisubmersible vessel full of cocaine last Wednesday. Seven tons of the drug, with an estimated street value of $196 million, was recovered when Coast Guard crewmembers boarded a 60-foot-long vessel about 400 miles south of the Mexico-Guatemala border, according to the agency.

The Coast Guard boarding team reported the vessel “became unstable and began to sink during the transfer of the bales of cocaine. The condition of the vessel made it unsafe to tow and [the] crew sank the vessel as a hazard to navigation.”

A Navy maritime patrol aircraft had alerted Coast Guard cutter Midgett to the vessel. This is not the only semisubmersible found in the area recently by the Coast Guard. A 70-foot vessel was intercepted by the Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy Sept. 13 in international waters near Costa Rica. The seizure involved a nighttime boarding, the arrest of four Columbian smugglers, and the confiscation of 6.6 tons of cocaine, valued at $187 million, before the vessel sank.

“It was the most dangerous operation of my career,” says Coast Guard Lt. Todd Bagetis in the report.

The use of makeshift semisubmersible vessels is not new. In July, Mexican special forces captured a similar vessel with 200 tightly wrapped packages of cocaine. These vessels are capable of traveling from South America to the U.S. without stopping for fuel or supplies, according to the report.

— Elizabeth Ellis