Coast Guard Crew Offloads $11 Million of Cocaine

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Crewmembers aboard Coast Guard Cutter Marlin offload 17 bales of cocaine worth more than $11 million Jan. 3 at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg.

A maritime patrol aircraft crew detected a suspicious go-fast vessel in the western Caribbean Sea Dec. 29. The crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Forward was notified and began pursuit when the suspects aboard the go-fast vessel began to jettison bales of suspected contraband in an attempt to escape.

The Forward deployed a boat crew to recover the bales, which later tested positive for cocaine, while the cutter continued pursuit.

A helicopter crew with the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON), aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Confidence, was launched and compelled the vessel to stop through the use of warning shots and disabling fire.

After the go-fast vessel was disabled, the crew aboard the Forward boarded and detained the crew.

The cocaine was later transferred from the Forward to the Marlin.

"The ship-helicopter team is a winning combination that enables us to make important contributions to regional and Homeland Security," said Cmdr. Greg Wisener, Coast Guard Cutter Forward's commanding officer.  "Interdiction at sea is a highly efficient and cost-effective way to counter Trans-National Criminal Organizations."

The interdiction was 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 illicit trafficking.

• The Coast Guard Cutter Forward is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter, homeported in Portsmouth, Va.

• The Coast Guard Cutter Confidence is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter, homeported in Port Canaveral, Fla.

• HITRON is unit based out of Jacksonville, Fla.

• The Coast Guard Cutter Marlin is a 87-foot patrol boat, homeported in Fort Myers, Fla.

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