SAN DIEGO–The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast (WMEC-632) offloaded more than 26,000 pounds of seized cocaine in San Diego Friday.
The cocaine, worth an estimated $350 million, was seized in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The contraband represents six suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions and the recovery of floating cocaine bales by the crews of two Coast Guard cutters off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America between late June and mid-July.
Six of the interdictions were carried out by the Steadfast’s crew, one of the Coast Guard’s oldest cutters commissioned in 1968. One interdiction was by the crew of one of the service’s newest ships, the Coast Guard Cutter Robert Ward (WPC-1130) commissioned in March, and is not only the cutter’s first drug bust, but the first drug bust by a Coast Guard Sentinel-class fast response cutter in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
The offload from the Steadfast follows the July 11 offload of more than 39,000 pounds of seized cocaine from the Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL-775) in San Diego representing 14 interdictions in the same region. So far in fiscal year 2019, the Coast Guard has made more than 100 interdictions, seized more than 230,000 pounds of cocaine and detained more than 400 suspected smugglers in the drug transit zones of the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in districts across the nation.
The Coast Guard increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy.
During at-sea interdictions, a suspect vessel is initially detected and monitored by allied, military or law enforcement personnel coordinated by Joint Interagency Task Force-South based in Key West, Florida. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District, headquartered in Alameda.
The Steadfast is a 210-foot Reliance-class medium-endurance cutter homeported in Astoria, Oregon.
The Robert Ward is a 154-foot Sentinel-class fast response cutter homeported in San Pedro.
The Robert Ward is one of four recently commissioned fast response cutters (FRCs) assigned to the 11th Coast Guard District to bolster Coast Guard safety and security operations in the Pacific Southwest region.