The Northern California U.S Coast Guard has released a video of the March 3 drug bust off the Panama Pacific Coast that netted 12,800 pounds of cocaine.

Fox5NY News reports that four suspected drug smugglers travelling in a self-propelled semi submersible (SPSS) were arrested by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf from Alameda, California. The crew had been notified by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) aircraft, which spotted the submersible vessel.

An SPSS vessel is preferred by drug smugglers due to its low profile. It is very difficult to detect because its hull is underwater. Only the exhaust pipe and cockpit are visible above water. These vessels have gained prominence in recent times, with the Coast Guard reporting that they have captured five SPSS vessels since June last year.

Capt. Laura Collins, commanding officer of the Cutter Bertholf, was quoted by ABC13News saying, “SPSS interdictions are inherently dangerous, yet we persevere to disrupt the funding sources of illicit organizations causing violence and instability in Central America.”

Joint Anti-Narcotic Task Force

The interdiction of this submersible vessel was only possible because of the joint efforts of several agencies. Homeland Prep News reports that an Air and Marine Operations (AMO) aircraft was conducting counter-narcotics operations together with the Joint Interagency Task Force South when it spotted the SPSS. It then alerted the U.S Coast Guard vessel, which intercepted the submersible 300 miles southwest of Panama.

Searches inside the vessel unearthed cocaine with a street value of about $200 million.  Lt. Donnie Brzuska told ABC13News that a loaded gun was also found in the cockpit of the SPSS.

According to Homeland Prep News, John Wassong, director at the National Air Security Operations Center – Corpus Christi, said, “This type of cooperation and teamwork produces these kinds of results where suspects are arrested and narcotics prevented from reaching U.S. shores. Our crews will continue to take every opportunity to disrupt this type of transnational criminal activity.”

The AMO crews are responsible for conducting surveillance of the coastal areas. Homeland Prep News says that these crews patrol large areas that include 41 nations. This also includes areas such as the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Last year, they contributed to over 190 drug busts and the seizure of over 200,000 pounds of cocaine.

Lt. Brzuska edited the video released to the media, which shows the Coast Guard crew brandishing weapons as they wave for the submersible vessel to stop. Some of the suspected drug smugglers can be seen raising their hands in surrender. Coast Guard officers then boarded the SPSS to mark another victory in the fight against drug smuggling.

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