WASHINGTON, D.C.—In two separate incidents in a 24-hour period, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Air and Marine (OAM) P-3 operating out of National Air Security Operations Center-Corpus Christi (NASOC-CC), detected two go-fast vessels carrying more than 10,000 pounds of cocaine with a combined value of more than $779 million.
On March 2, a P-3 operating in the Western Caribbean spotted a go-fast vessel loaded down with suspicious bales. The 35-foot twin-engine vessel was spotted speeding north off the coast of Colombia and appeared to be loaded with numerous packages when the Texas-based CBP P-3 began tracking the vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard was vectored in to board the vessel and after inspection, 4,400 pounds of cocaine worth more than $329 million were recovered.
The next day, two P-3s conducting routine patrols in the Western Caribbean detected a four-engine, open-hull go-fast vessel loaded with rectangular bales off the coast of Costa Rica. Local law enforcement officials were called in to pursue, and the vessel ran aground in Nicaragua, where the four crew members fled into the jungle, leaving behind approximately 6,000 pounds of cocaine worth more than $450 million.
These two seizures are in addition to an $82 million seizure detected by the CBP P-3s operating out of Jacksonville, Fla. In the last week, CBP P-3s have accounted for $861 million in cocaine seizures.
During fiscal year 2011, the CBP P-3 fleet continued its anti-smuggling success by seizing or disrupting more than 148,000 pounds of cocaine valued at more than $11.1 billion, totaling 20.6 pounds seized for every flight hour, valued at $1.5 million for every hour flown.
CBP OAM P-3s have been an integral part of the successful counter-narcotic missions operating in coordination with the Joint Interagency Task Force - South (JIATFS). The P-3s patrol in a six million square mile area of the Western Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, known as the Source and Transit Zone, in search of drugs that are in transit towards U.S. shores. The P-3s' distinctive detection capabilities allow highly-trained crews to identify emerging threats well beyond the land borders of the U.S. By providing surveillance of known air, land, and maritime smuggling routes in an area that is twice the size of the continental U.S., the P-3s detect, monitor and disrupt smuggling activities before they reach shore.