SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The war on drugs continues off the waters of Mexico and South America including the dramatic boarding of a small submarine by the crew of the Cutter Munro.
The seizure was just a portion of the record 39,000 pounds of cocaine seized from smugglers in the Pacific Ocean by the crew on its recently complete deployment.
The U.S. Coast Guard released dramatic video of the encounter with smugglers on Thursday.
It shows a Coast Guard vessel pulling alongside the submarine as someone yells orders in Spanish for it to stop. The submarine continues to move as Coast Guard members then get close enough to board it as one repeatedly pounds on the hatch before it opens and people on board appear with their hands raised as they surrender.
The Coast Guard said cocaine and marijuana with an estimated street value of $569 million was seized during the operations in the past two months. Fifty-five smuggling suspects were taken into custody.
Among the hardest to spot are what the Coast Guard calls self-propelled semi-submersible vessels, which look almost like submarines.
The smugglers even alter the vessels’ exhaust systems to try to decrease their heat signatures. These vessels also tend to carry the most illicit cargo – up to 5,000 kilograms per shipment. Fishing or go-fast vessels are smaller and usually carry at most 900 kilograms, officials said.
The use of aerial surveillance and use-of-force-equipped helicopters is helping the Coast Guard increase its number of interdictions.
“The transnational criminal organization and the cartels that fund their deadly trade represent one of the greatest national security and public health threats to the American people,” Vice President Mike Pence told the crew.
Pence was on hand Thursday as 39,000 pounds (17,690 kilograms) of cocaine and 933 pounds (423 kilograms) of marijuana were taken off the cutter Munro at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.