CG Cutter Interdicts $64 Million Worth of Cocaine

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant, a 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Port Canaveral, returned home November 5 after completing an eight-week deployment supporting counter-narcotics, alien-migrant interdiction and search and rescue operations in the Western Caribbean.

During the patrol, crewmembers aboard the Vigilant were responsible for the interdiction of more than 5,300 pounds of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value of $64 million.

On Oct. 12, crewmembers aboard the Vigilant and an embarked helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON), based in Jacksonville, Fla., located a suspected 30-foot drug smuggling vessel northeast of  Nicaragua. Vigilant crewmembers boarded the vessel and found more than 1, 500 pounds of cocaine worth $18 million.  

In a similar, but separate incident, crewmembers aboard the Vigilant deployed a boarding team and crewmembers from HITRON to interdict another suspected go-fast vessel off the coast of Colombia on Oct. 21. The smugglers jettisoned their contraband upon spotting the helicopter and continued to flee. The Colombian Navy recovered approximately 3,700 pounds of jettisoned cocaine worth $46 million.

"I'm proud of the crew's vigilance in executing another successful law enforcement mission and their commitment to keeping these illicit drugs off our streets," said Cmdr. James Estramonte, commanding officer of the Vigilant. "I'm truly proud of how they applied their training into real-case scenarios."

Medium endurance cutters like the Vigilant are built for multi-week offshore patrols including operations requiring enhanced communications, and helicopter and pursuit boat operations, which provide a key capability for homeland security operations at sea.

These interdictions were carried out as part of Operation Martillo, which is one component in the United States government's whole-of-government approach to countering the use of the Central American littorals as transshipment routes for illicit drugs, weapons, and cash. Operation Martillo is an international operation focused on sharing information and bringing together air, land, and maritime assets from the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and Western Hemisphere and European partner nation agencies to counter this illicit trafficking.

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