Older Coast Guard vessels nab smugglers

Drug patrols in international waters off Central America have netted the U.S. Coast Guard over three tons of illicit narcotics worth an estimated $95 million wholesale, and the apprehension of 11 suspected drug smugglers.

Coast Guard officials were scheduled to offload over 5,271 pounds of cocaine worth more than $78 million on May 29 in San Diego, after back to back interdictions off the coast of Central America on May 18 and May 19 that also resulted in the apprehension of six suspected drug smugglers, Coast Guard officials said.

Their vessel, the Active, a 53-year-old medium endurance cutter, is currently operating beyond its expected 40-year service life. These cutters are scheduled for replacement by the Offshore Patrol Cutter, with construction of the first vessel beginning in 2018 and scheduled for completion in 2021. Crews aboard these medium endurance cutters stopped nearly a third of all drugs seized by the U.S. Coast Guard in fiscal year 2017, more than 138,000 pounds. During the same period the Coast Guard overall removed over 493,000 pounds of cocaine worth over $6.6 billion, a new record for the service, up from 443,000 pounds of cocaine in fiscal year 2016.