Jacksonville, Fla. – A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Air and Marine (OAM) P-3 Orion Long Range Tracker aircraft performing a night patrol of the Caribbean Sea led members of Colombian law enforcement to intercept and subsequent seize 93 bales of cocaine weighing more than 5,180 lbs and worth more than $387,700,000.
“The opportunity to work with our partner nations to effect an interception and seizure of this size makes the hours our aircraft crews put in patrolling the endless miles of blue ocean more than worth it,” said Director of National Air Security Operations Center – Jacksonville Doug Garner.
An OAM crew aboard a CBP P3 aircraft detected a four-engine go-fast style vessel about 150 miles Northeast of Panama City, Panama, running at high speed with its lights out. The crew continued tracking the southbound vessel, which was moving at about 30 knots, toward Colombia’s coastal region known as the Gulf of Uraba.
The CBP crew, which was coordinating with Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF South) and Colombian law enforcement engaged in Operation Martillo, assisted a crew operating a Colombian law enforcement aircraft to establish visual contact of the fast moving vessel.
The suspect vessel re-entered Colombian territorial waters, and both law enforcement aircrews reported identifying numerous packages and fuel barrels aboard the vessel. Colombian law enforcement responded to intercept the suspect vessel. However, before law enforcement could intercept the crew piloting the vessel, it was beached in a remote region in the Colombian western territory.
When law enforcement arrived to the site, the vessel’s crew had deserted the 93 bales of cocaine onboard.
This seizure is the latest example of the close coordination and counter-narcotics efforts of partner nations whose assets continue disrupt criminal activity resulting in significant narcotics in the source and transit zones before reaching the United States.