Posted on April 30, 2018 by Hannah Berry
The U.S. Navy Cyclone-class patrol ship USS Zephyr has successfully intercepted a crew of drug smugglers in a joint operation with the US Coast Guard. The capture occurred earlier this month during a routine patrol of the Eastern Pacific. The four rescued smugglers were onboard a low-profile go-fast boat, designed to avoid discovery.
Their vessel caught fire as the crew hurriedly tried to offload their cargo to avoid the approaching patrol ship.
Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, the Zephyr’s on-the-day commanding officer, manoeuvred the patrol ship alongside the smugglers' vessel, enabling his crew to act quickly and extinguish the fire.
A haul of cocaine said to be worth 1,000 pounds was seized off the vessel, and further evidence was preserved for prosecution before the ship was sunk as a hazard to navigation.
Afterwards, Lt. Cmdr. Mike McGrail, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team New Orleans said: “This case truly highlights the danger and unpredictability our crews face every day interdicting narcotics smugglers on the open ocean.”
“This was an incredible team effort, between our [boarding team], the law enforcement detachment and USS Zephyr crews to save four lives, put out the fire and recover half a ton of cocaine.”
The Eastern Pacific and Caribbean Basin are notorious smuggling zones. Navy vessels and Coast Guard law enforcement teams regularly ban smuggling boats in the vicinity.
Last year, authorities seized almost enough cocaine to cover the service's operating budget (if it were sold at wholesale prices). However, the interception rate is only at about 20 percent of the total, and suggestions are that the only limitation to the volume of seizures is the availability of search and banning assets.