Submersibles Used to Ferry Narcotics

Tuesday, November 06, 2007
It was on a routine patrol that the Colombian coast guard stumbled upon an eerie outpost amid the mangroves: a mini-shipyard where suspected drug traffickers were building submarines. Perched on a makeshift wooden dry dock late last month were two 55-foot-long fiberglass vessels, one ready for launch, the other about 70% complete. Each was outfitted with a 350-horsepower Cummins diesel engine and enough fuel capacity to reach the coast of Central America or Mexico, hundreds of miles to the north. The vessels had cargo space that could fit 5 tons of cocaine, a senior officer with the Colombian coast guard's Pacific command said in an interview. The design featured tubing for air, crude conning towers and cramped bunk space for a crew of four, he added. Over the last two years, Colombian authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy have seized 13 submarine-like vessels outfitted for drug running. The five seized by American authorities were en route to Mexico or Central America, each loaded with 3 to 5 tons of cocaine. The seizures point to a security threat that goes beyond drug trafficking. Many law enforcement officials are concerned that U.S. ports and shorelines could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks using such crudely built submarines. The boats have become increasingly sophisticated, evolving from huge tubes built to be towed by fishing or cargo boats to self-propelled vessels with ballast systems and communications equipment that leave no wake or radar profile as they glide just below the ocean surface. The recent discovery in the Pacific Coast estuary about 25 miles south of the port city of Buenaventura reflects drug traffickers' growing use of such boats in the face of stepped-up operations by Colombian and U.S. anti-drug forces, experts say. The subs were probably commissioned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in whose zone of influence the shipyard was situated, according to the officer, who asked not to be identified for security reasons. The FARC is thought to be Colombia's most powerful drug-trafficking organization. Military officials here and in the United States say the war on drugs, financed by billions of dollars in U.S. aid, is forcing drug runners to undertake ever more ingenious methods of transporting cocaine from Colombia, which produces about 90% of the drug consumed in the United States. Proponents insist that the campaign is producing concrete results. They cite a 24% increase in cocaine street prices this year as reported by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Improved surveillance and intelligence have led to spectacular busts this year, including the recent seizure in Manzanillo, Mexico, of 23 tons of cocaine hidden in a freight container aboard a Hong Kong-flagged vessel that had stopped in Buenaventura. Meanwhile, critics of the war on drugs warn that the price increase, as in past instances, may prove only temporary. In any event, the ever-changing tactics of Colombian drug traffickers targeting the lucrative U.S. market reflect a constant cat-and-mouse game. The boats seized Oct. 28 are submarine-like, but officials here say a more accurate description is "self-propelled semi-submersible" craft because they do not dive and resurface like a true submarine. Submarines are not new to drug trafficking, only more numerous, if the increase in seizures is any indication. In what was the most spectacular bust involving a narco-submarine, police in September 2000 raided a warehouse near Bogota, the capital, and found a 100-foot-long submarine that was being built according to Russian plans. The sub was thought to be a joint venture by Colombian and Russian drug mafias and would have been capable of carrying 10 tons of cocaine per trip had it been completed. Annual Colombian cocaine production is now estimated at 500 to 800 tons. [Source: http://www.latimes.com]

Maritime Today


The Maritime Industry's original and most viewed E-News Service

Maritime Reporter January 2016 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Cruise Ship Trends

R&M Group Merges with Sea Level Marine

R&M Ship Technologies USA, Inc. has merged Sea Level Marine, LLC. in efforts to increase the range of services offered to the company’s global client base. By aligning resources,

Fincantieri Launches Majestic Princess for China

Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri has launched its first cruise ship destined for the Chinese market, and will now begin interior fittings ahead of the vessel’s delivery scheduled for spring 2017.

Anthem of the Seas to Port after Rough Night

Multiple media outlets including CBS News report that Royal Caribbean's new cruise ship Anthem of the Seas was hit by a strong strom, reportedly resulting in no

Maritime Security

Pentagon: Cut in LCS Ship Program 'Not an Indictment'

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the Pentagon's plan to truncate the Littoral Combat Ship program at 40 ships instead of 52 reflected budget pressures

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain Ban Iranian Ships From Ports

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have banned Iranian-flagged vessels from entering their waters and imposed other shipping restrictions, according to ship insurers citing local reports,

Migrants Reaching Europe by Sea Soars 10-fold

Ten times as many migrants and refugees arrived in Europe by sea in the first six weeks of the year as in the same period of 2015, and the number of deaths also soared,

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Naval Architecture Navigation Offshore Oil Pipelines Ship Electronics Ship Simulators Sonar
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.0712 sec (14 req/sec)