SAN DIEGO – The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton offloaded approximately six tons of cocaine in San Diego, March 31.
Several U.S. Coast Guard cutters seized the cocaine in nine interdictions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean from mid-January through February.
The drugs, intercepted in international waters off the coast of Central and South America by crews of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Stratton, Spencer, Sherman and Mohawk, were offloaded at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal.
The load represents eight interdictions of suspected drug smuggling vessels, known as pangas, and once case of seized bales of cocaine dumped by suspected smugglers. Stratton was responsible for three cases, seizing approximately 3,700 pounds. Spencer was responsible for two cases, seizing an estimated 3,000 pounds. Sherman was responsible for one case, seizing an estimated 1,700 pounds and Mohawk handled three cases resulting in the seizure of an approximately 4,300 pounds.
Stratton’s crew made history by being the first Coast Guard cutter to deploy fully equipped with a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) for an entire patrol. The sUAS had been previously used in drug interdiction as part of field testing but had not deployed aboard to a cutter for an entire patrol. Aboard Stratton on this patrol the sUAS flew more than 35 sorties, accumulated over 260 flight hours, and provided real-time surveillance and detection imagery during interdiction operations. This real-time imagery and persistent surveillance capability assisted Stratton’s embarked helicopter and law enforcement teams with the interdictions.
“We had a tremendously successful deployment from start to finish and I could not be more proud of the crew,” said Capt. Nathan Moore, Stratton’s commanding officer. “Stratton operates on the front lines attacking transnational criminal networks where they are most vulnerable, on our turf -- at sea. The addition of the unmanned aerial system added even more capability to help us protect our nation from the physical and social harm that comes from illegal drugs,” he said.
In addition to the contraband put ashore in San Diego Friday, approximately 16 more tons of cocaine, seized by several Coast Guard cutters and a Royal Canadian Navy ship with a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment aboard operating in the Eastern Pacific drug transit zone, were offloaded in Florida Monday from the Coast Guard Cutter James. Please click here to view the news release.
Combating transnational organized crime networks, from which the illegal drug trade stems, is of paramount importance to the national security of the U.S., and is a mission in which the Coast Guard and partner agencies are heavily engaged. During Fiscal Year 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard seized more than 416,600 pounds of cocaine and taken 585 suspected smugglers into custody from the Eastern Pacific.
Stratton is a 418-foot national security cutter homeported in Alameda, Calif. Sherman is a 378-foot high endurance cutter homeported in Honolulu. Spencer is a 270-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Boston. Mohawk is a 270-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Key West.
Overall surveillance and counter-smuggling patrols in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean are coordinated by Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South, a national task force headquartered in Florida that executes detection and monitoring of illicit trafficking across all domains and facilitates international and interagency coordination to interdict, disrupt, and dismantle threat networks. The law enforcement phase of the counter-drug mission in the Eastern Pacific occurs under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda.