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CBP Intercepts Cocaine Smugglers in Open Waters

Release Date: 
January 30, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, FLA.—In two separate incidents, two U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) P-3 aircraft operating out of National Air Security Operations Center (NASOC) -Jacksonville, Fla., detected suspicious waterborne targets carrying more than 3,800 pounds of cocaine with a combined value of more than $130 million.

The first incident took place on Jan. 17, when a P-3 operating near the Galapagos Islands spotted a vessel towing four panga boats. Various maritime patrol assets tracked the targets over several days before turning the surveillance over to the U.S. Navy. U.S. Navy assets intercepted the suspicious vessel and detained one Ecuadorian, two Colombians and recovered more than 800 pounds of cocaine valued over $28 million.

The next event took place on Jan. 21, when the Jacksonville based P-3 detected a go-fast vessel off the coast of Colón, Panama. Surveillance of the go-fast showed it to be loaded with contraband and fuel barrels. The crew onboard the P-3 coordinated with Panamanian law enforcement to respond to the suspected boat. After intercepting the go-fast, the Panamanians recovered 57 bales of cocaine that weighed more than 3,000 pounds and has a street value over $100 million.

"These interceptions are indicative of our efforts to remain vigilant and our commitment to joining our international law enforcement partners in disrupting criminal activity at every opportunity," said Ricky High, CBP Jacksonville NASOC director.

These two disruptions are the latest in CBP's efforts to disrupt smugglers and their contraband.

During fiscal year 2012, the CBP P-3 fleet continued its anti-smuggling success by seizing or disrupting more than 117,000 pounds of cocaine valued at more than $8.76 billion.

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.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017