Wednesday, September 17, 2008

USN/USCG Capture Drug-Running Semi-Submersible

The guided-missile frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8) tows a self-propelled, semi-submersible craft seized Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 by Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 404. The Coast Guard law enforcement officers, embarked aboard the McInerney, seized seven tons of cocaine during a night raid about 350 miles west of Guatemala. The seized vessel has the capability to travel from Ecuador to San Diego, Calif. McInerney, homeported in Mayport, Fla., is deployed in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Justin Cooper/Released)

Sailors from USS McInerney (FFG 8) and U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 404 (LEDET) intercepted a self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) carrying seven tons of cocaine Sept. 13.

Sailors intercepted the 59-foot SPSS in a nighttime interdiction 350 miles off the coast of Guatemala, capturing four suspected narcotics smugglers from Colombia and the large cargo of cocaine before the SPSS could be scuttled.

An SPSS is capable of carrying 3-5 metric tons of cocaine and has no maritime use other than the covert transport of narcotics or other illegal goods. An SPSS is between 25-65 feet long, travel at speeds up to 13 knots, carry 4-5 crew members, and can travel up to 2,500 nautical miles without refueling. An SPSS is dangerous to capture since it is designed with valves that smugglers can use to quickly flood and sink the vessel, posing a risk to boarding teams attempting to capture it.

McInerney, homeported in Mayport, Fla., and the embarked LEDET 404 are currently deployed under operational control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet (NAVSO/4th FLT) conducting counter illicit trafficking operations for Joint Interagency Task Force-South in the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of focus.

As the Naval Component Command of USSOUTHCOM, NAVSO's mission is to direct U.S. Naval Forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies within the maritime environment. Various operations include counter-illicit trafficking, theater security cooperation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, military-to-military interaction and bilateral and multinational training.

Fourth Fleet is the numbered fleet assigned to NAVSO, exercising operational control of assigned forces in the SOUTHCOM area of focus.