ST.PETERSBURG— Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge offload approximately 1,500 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated wholesale value of $23 million, in St. Petersburg, Fla., Monday.
On March 12, during a patrol in the western Caribbean, crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa detected a suspicious go-fast vessel moving at a high rate of speed in international waters. A Customs and Border Patrol Maritime Patrol aircraft provided oversight of the suspected vessel and the Tampa's onboard helicopter launched to pursue the vessel. Upon arriving on scene, the helicopter crew fired warning shots effectively stopping the vessel.
A Coast Guard boarding team from the Tampa subsequently boarded the vessel and discovered 695 packages hidden inside the vessel's hull which later tested positive for cocaine.
"This seizure highlights the hard work and dedication of our crews in stopping the illegal flow of drugs in the Caribbean," said Cmdr. Clinton Carlson, the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa's commanding officer. "This interdiction demonstrates the effectiveness of our federal and interdiction partnerships to keep dangerous drugs off our streets.”
This interdiction was 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 Tampa is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Va.