US Coast Guard agents intercepted a “narco submarine” that transported 7,700 kilograms of cocaine, while crossing the Pacific Ocean, marking a rebound in this mode of narcotics transfer.
In a dramatic video released on July 11, a Coast Guard patrolman appears next to a semi-submersible at full speed. Coast guards jump to board the ship and one of them hits the hatch until it opens. The operation, which occurred on June 18, ended with the arrest of five alleged traffickers and the seizure of a cocaine stash valued at US $232 million .
The Coast Guard has found a greater number of these ships recently. In a period of two months in 2017, they stopped seven “low-profile ships for drug transfer,” according to an official statement , in which about 10,300 kilograms of cocaine were seized for more than US $ 306 million.
The authorities in Colombia are also seeing a rebound in this type of traffic.
In August 2018, for example, the Colombian navy intercepted two semi-submersibles, one of which transported more than two tons of narcotics valued at US $ 66 million, and another with more than 1,700 kilograms of cocaine. By September of the same year, the Colombian navy had captured 14 semi-submersibles in the Pacific Ocean, more than triple that of the previous year, according to information from Business Insider.
These ships leave mostly from the Pacific coast of Colombia , where mangroves offer the ideal coverage for builders.
InSight Crime Analysis
The growing use of so-called narco submarines for the transfer of narcotics between Colombia and the United States reflects two realities of cocaine trafficking: coca production passes through a historic peak in Colombia, and traffickers continue to view the oceans as the most effective way to drug transport In 2018, coca cultivation in Colombia remained at 208,000 hectares , just a fraction below the record of 209,000 hectares recorded in 2017. That bonanza has led traffickers to resort to all types of maritime transport.
The traditional traffic method, which consists of hiding cocaine in cargo ships arriving in US ports, has recently been used by traffickers, which is evident in the huge seizures of the alkaloid in ports in New York and Philadelphia .
It is also evident that traffickers consider that semi-submersibles, originally used by Colombian drug traffickers in the early 1990s, are an effective method of transportation. These ships are basically used to circumvent improved radar technology and the use of speedboats by the authorities.
Since 2009, these ships could be built for only US $ 50,000 and assembled in less than 90 days. Since then, they have become faster, more sophisticated and possibly cheaper in their construction.
Traffickers have also assembled fully submersible versions , whose construction is worth millions of dollars, but they have enough space for some crew members and huge shipments of narcotics.
The increase in interdictions of this type of vessels shows that it has been effective to triple the resources of the US Coast Guard in the Pacific. But the continued use of submarines by traffickers most likely indicates that a party still manages to dodge the authorities. Even when detained, these submarines can be frustrating for the authorities. They are built to sink easily, which means that it is difficult to raise charges against the crew once the narcotics cargo and the ship lie on the ocean floor.