MIAMI - A U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine (OAM) aircrew tracked a suspicious vessel off the coast of Panama leading to 2,195 pounds of cocaine and the arrest of three suspects on Mar. 19. The estimated street value of the contraband is more than $164 million.
An aircrew aboard a P-3 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft coordinated with interagency partners to intercept a vessel in the waters southwest of Panama City. Suspected drug smugglers on the go-fast vessel began dumping cocaine overboard as part of an effort to escape.
Panamanian authorities stopped the vessel, detained three individuals, and recovered the drugs from the water.
The P-3 AEW aircraft patrolling during the operation is based at OAM's National Air Security Operations Center in Jacksonville, Florida.
"The vigilance of our agents to detect illegal activity on the high seas combined with the collaboration of partner nations and multi-national law enforcement agencies leads to interdictions," said Director of National Air Security Operations Center - Jacksonville Doug Garner. "We'll continue to deter maritime drug smuggling."
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 with an estimated street value of $9.47 billion.
Counter smuggling operations in the region are conducted as part of Operation Martillo. The P-3s patrol in a 42 million-square mile area which includes more than 41 nations, the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and seaboard approaches to the United States.
Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific is done by a joint interagency task force headquartered in Key West, Florida.
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.