U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its interagency partners disrupted two separate maritime smuggling attempts over the week end as announced by a
CBP press release dated Feb. 25, 2013, resulting in the arrest of six individuals and recovering more than 2,200 pounds of cocaine with a street value of more than $160 million.
A crew aboard a CBP Office of Air and Marine (OAM) P-3 was on patrol as part of the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) in the open waters in the Eastern Pacific near Costa Rica when they detected an illegal watercraft moving rapidly and identified it as a 35 foot, twin-engine speedboat. Surveillance indicated the speedboat was carrying fuel barrels and cargo.
A U.S. Navy vessel was called, which deployed a helicopter and a rigid hull inflatable boat to the speed boat’s location intercepting and recovering three suspects and 2,200 pounds of cocaine.
The following day, in the Western Caribbean, another OAM P-3 crew detected a 35-foot, twin-engine speedboat carrying fuel barrels and cargo and traveling near Panama. Three operators could be seen setting their vessel on fire and jumping overboard.
The P-3 crew vectored a U.S. Coast Guard cutter to the boat’s location. The USCG deployed a rigid hull inflatable boat and rescued the three vessel operators, extinguished the fire on the vessel, and recovered several bales of contraband which were not yet identified.
The P-3s patrol a 42 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 U.S. land borders. 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 and the interagency partners detect, monitor and disrupt smuggling activities before they reach shore.