JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine agents and interagency partners intercepted more than 3,400 pounds of cocaine during two separate at-sea interdictions off the coast of Central America. The wholesale value of the seized drugs is tens of millions of dollars.
On Sept. 12, a Jacksonville-based OAM aircrew aboard a P-3 Airborne Early Warning aircraft supporting counter-drug operations in the region detected a suspicious go-fast vessel in waters south of Panama. A CBP P-3 crew provided aerial surveillance as Panamanian law enforcement personnel intercepted the vessel and discovered more than 2,094 pounds of cocaine onboard. Authorities apprehended three individuals and towed the vessel back into port.
On Sept. 13, a CBP P-3 crew located a suspect vessel in international waters hundreds of miles off the coast of El Salvador and coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard to interdict the vessel. A U.S. Coast Guard’s cutter's boarding team gained control of the vessel after its helicopter employed warning shots. Personnel supporting the joint task force arrested three smugglers and recovered 1,388 pounds of cocaine.
“We’ll remain vigilant and employ all available resources to disrupt illicit trafficking on the high seas and preserve America’s security interests,” said Director of National Air Security Operations Center - Jacksonville Robert Blanchard. “These interdictions are the result of strong partnerships supporting border security and maritime law enforcement efforts as we provide state-of-the-art aerial surveillance capabilities.”
The P-3s’ distinctive detection capabilities allow highly-trained crews to identify threats well beyond the land borders of the United States. By providing surveillance of known air, land and maritime smuggling routes in an area that is almost 14 times the size of the continental United States, the P-3s detect, monitor and disrupt smuggling activities before they reach our shores.
Operation Martillo includes the participation of 15 nations that are working together to counter trans-national organized crime and illicit trafficking in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific is done by a joint agency task force headquartered in Key West, Florida.
In Fiscal Year 2014, CBP's P-3s operating out of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Jacksonville, Florida, flew more than 5,900 hours in support of counternarcotic missions resulting in 135 interdiction events of suspected smuggling vessels and aircraft. These events led to the total seizure or disruption of 126,489 pounds of cocaine.
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U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.