U.S. Coast Guard Unloads $400 Million of Drugs in Florida

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Legare, which docked at Port Everglades to unload the seized drugs. Photo by Lt.Cmdr. Ryan P Kelley.

On April 24, at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the United States Coast Guard unloaded approximately 13 tons of drugs that had been seized at sea.

According to a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard, the unloaded drugs included nearly 12 tons of cocaine and almost a ton of marijuana. The estimated street value of the drugs being unloaded totals a staggering $390 million dollars. The drugs were seized off the coasts of Central and South America, including Mexico.

The drugs that were offloaded had been seized from vessels in the international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The drugs offloaded were the combined total of interdictions performed by six different U.S. Coast Guard Cutters and two vessels from the Canadian Navy.

The Coast Guard Cutter Legare was responsible for the most interdictions, seizing a total of eight kilograms of marijuana and 2,051 kilograms of cocaine over the course of five investigations of vessels that were suspected to be smuggling drugs. The Legare, which is based in Portsmouth, Virginia, was used to offload the drugs in Port Everglades on April 24.

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As the drugs were offloaded in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, authorities lauded the cooperation of the various law enforcement agencies involved in the seizure of the illegal drugs from international waters. The cooperation of the Justice Department, the Defense Department, and Homeland Security were each cited as integral to the successful seizure of the 13 tons of illicit substances.

At-sea interdictions are a multi-step process. Law enforcement or military personnel is responsible for locating and subsequently tracking the suspected vessels, while boarding and seizure of drugs is conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard. Law enforcement for the operations fall under the authority of the 11th District of the Coast Guard, which is located in Alameda, California.