What happens when the U.S. Coast Guard partners with the Royal Navy? An estimated wholesale value of $16 million worth of drugs never made it on the streets.
The interdiction of 2,155 pounds of marijuana and 420 kilograms of cocaine stemmed from two separate interdictions near San Andres, Colombia. The first interdiction involved the Royal Navy warship HMS Lancaster with a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment Team aboard.
The Lancaster’s helicopter observed two people aboard a 40-foot vessel, jettisoning multiple bales of contraband in international waters north of San Andres Island, Colombia. The suspected smugglers were able to flee from law enforcement, but the Lancaster crew found a debris field, where they were able to recover 50 bales that later tested positive for marijuana.
The Royal Navy and U.S. Coast Guard were back in action again just days later when the 7th Coast Guard District command center received a report that a lookout aboard the Royal Canadian Navy Ship Preserver located a suspected smuggling vessel covered with a blue tarp in international waters near San Andres Island.
Lancaster launched their Lynx helicopter – of 815 Naval Air Squadron – to pursue the fast-moving vessel. A Royal Marine sniper in the helicopter disabled the speedboat by shooting a hole in the engine, enabling the Coast Guard law enforcement team to recover 15 bales of cocaine and take four suspected smugglers into custody.
“This is another fantastic result for Lancaster – and the multi-national counter-narcotics effort as a whole,” said Royal Navy Cmdr. Steve Moorhouse, Lancaster’s commanding officer. “The level of cooperation that exists between units and nations working with the Joint Interagency Task Force is second to none and hopefully this bust will make those who choose to smuggle narcotics in the region think twice.”
The 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, Department of Homeland Security and Western Hemisphere and European partner nation agencies to counter this illicit trafficking.