Crazy Moving Submarine Drug Bust


Two boats tear through the water in hot pursuit
of a narco submarine. “Alta su barco! Alta su barco! Ahora!” [Translation: Stop your boat! Stop your boat! Now!] screams one of the Coast Guardsman just before
three camouflage clad members of the elite United States Coast Guard boarding team leap
aboard the submersible. Carefully balancing on the wet surface of
the sub as waves rush over his feet, a Coast Guardsman pounds on the hatch. One of the drug smugglers opens it, putting
his hands up in surrender. You may have seen the gripping footage taken
by one of the Coast Guardsman’s helmet cams. On June 18, 2019 in the East Pacific waters
off the Colombian and Ecuadorian coasts, the US Coast Guard cutter Munro captured a 40
foot (12 m) narco submarine. However, this wasn’t a spur of the moment
bust or a stroke of good luck for the Coast Guard, this narcotics bust was set into motion
about 12 hours earlier. The USCG Munro which is deployed out of Alameda,
California is a newer ship, having just been commissioned in 2017. It’s just one of the Coast Guard’s eight
legend class national security cutters. These ships feature advanced command-and-control
capabilities, aviation support facilities, and increased endurance making them perfectly
suited for long-range patrols. The Munro is 418 ft (127 m) and can carry
up to 148 crew depending on the mission and configuration. Early on the morning of June 18th, the Munro’s
commanding officer, Capt. James Estramonte, received intelligence on a suspected narco
submarine from a Navy P-3 surveillance aircraft, which was patrolling the Pacific Ocean roughly
200 miles (321 km) west of the Colombia-Ecuador border. Submarines filled with drugs sound like the
stuff of movies, but they’ve recently become a favorite way for cartels to transport illegal
drugs secretly beneath the waves. Now these aren’t military grade subs, with
most only able to descend a few meters below the water at most, but that can often be more
than enough to smuggle thousands of pounds of drugs like cocaine without detection. The suspected narco sub had been spotted heading
North, some 250 miles (402 km) away from the Munro’s current position. Based on that initial intelligence, the Coast
Guard estimated that the smugglers had around 1,000 miles (1609 km) left to go before they
would reach the United States. Captain Estramonte ordered the cutter’s
speed increased to 25 knots or 28 mph (46 kph) in order to catch up to the illegal vessel. While en route, Captain Estramonte and the
crew of the Munro would devise their plan for how to take on the illegal narco sub,
if that was in fact what they were approaching. Some 10 hours later, and about 20 miles (32
km) from the sub, the crew of the Munro was close enough to set their plan in motion. Armed with pistols and wearing night vision
goggles, 13 members of the elite Coast Guard boarding team launched in two small boats,
a 26 foot (8 m) aluminum patrol boat called a Mark 4, and a rigid hull inflatable 35 foot
(11 m) long range interceptor. Both of these vessels are built for speed,
topping out at about 45 knots or 52 mph (72 kph). Meanwhile, as boarding crews were slicing
through the water towards the sub, the Munro’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron
aka HITRON launched a helicopter to provide sniper overwatch with a .50 caliber rifle
as well as provide visual play-by-play updates of the operation to the captain. The Coast Guard boats quickly pulled up on
either side of the sub. A Coast Guardsman yelled for them to stop
in Spanish. But the sub continued, the occupants likely
unable to hear the command. Then boarding team members jumped on the back
of the sub and banged on the hatch, finally alerting the crew to their presence. Fortunately, the smugglers quickly surrendered
without a fight, though the boarding team was prepared for an altercation. Five suspected drug smugglers were arrested
and handed over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Coast Guard spent the next 12 hours unloading
the huge haul of cocaine from the sub. They seized more than 17,000 pounds (7,711
kgs) of cocaine worth an estimated $232 million, making it the Coast Guard’s largest single
seizure since 2015. Then after a final sweep for contraband with
photos taken for evidence, the sub was intentionally scuttled. This dramatic bust is only one episode in
the long running cat and mouse saga between the Coast Guard and drug traffickers. Throughout the 1980’s speed boats were the
main drug running weapon of choice for narcotics traffickers. The authorities fought back by deploying fast
ships of their own. The cartels began to focus on smuggling cocaine
concealed in products via cargo ship. In the late 1990’s and into the 2000’s
the United States, Mexico, and Colombia intensified their war on drugs, resulting in several massive
drug busts at various ports. The cartels had to come up with new and creative
ways to insure their illicit products reached their destinations. For a long time there were rumors of drug
traffickers building D-I-Y narco submarines in the jungles of South America and using
them to transport drugs before the Coast Guard finally captured one in 1993. The vessel was wood and fiberglass, but could
not fully submerge and only travelled at 10 miles per hour. Since then narco submarines have grown increasingly
more sophisticated. Some of the more recently captured vessels
are equipped with GPS, are able to mask their heat signature, use lead siding to help mask
their infrared signature and are designed to be extremely difficult for radar, sonar
and infrared systems to detect. Many of the subs can travel at 18-22 knots
or 20-25 mph (20-35 kph). Advanced narco subs can cost upwards of $1
million to build, but a single successful drug running trip often allows traffickers
to recoup their spending. The average narco sub is 40-50 feet (12-15
m) long and can carry thousands of pounds of narcotics. US authorities have captured vessels carrying
as much as 7.5 tons (15,422,140 kgs) of cocaine with an estimated street value of $180 million. Narco subs also carry other illicit cargo
such as weapons and cash. The Coast Guard actually classifies narco
submarines into 4 types: Low profile vessels or LPVs, the top of which sit just above the
water line. These vessels aren’t entirely submerged, but
they’re still difficult to spot. Usually their tops are painted blue or in
a way that makes visual spotting hard. The sub captured in the June 18th bust would
be considered an LPV. Semi-submersible narco submarines very similar
to LPVs, the difference being that they can completely lower themselves below the waterline
except for a snorkel like tube or air duct to provide air to the crew. The third type of narco subs are fully submersible
vessels. This style of drug smuggling submarines are
rare due to the high cost and technical difficulties of building them. The final type of narco subs are torpedoes. These tend not to be technologically advanced
and are designed to be dragged by a camouflaged ship. In the event of detection, the tow-ship can
drop the torpedo which then activates a homing signal for later retrieval when the coast
is clear. Since 2015, there’s been an increase in
the number of narco subs being built and used. Consumer demand for cocaine is high, business
is booming and coca production in Colombia is soaring. In 2018, coca cultivation in Colombia stood
at 208,000 hectares–that’s 803 square miles (2,079 square km) of coca farms. Narco subs are especially preferred by Colombian
drug cartel members to export cocaine from Colombia to Mexico, which is often then smuggled
via land over the border into the US. During the summer of 2017, the Coast Guard
caught seven LVPs, seizing around 22,707 pounds (10,300 kgs) of cocaine worth more than $306
million. In August and September of 2018, the Colombian
navy captured 14 semi-submersibles in the Pacific Ocean, more than 3 times the number
of vessels captured in 2017. According to a US Foreign Military Studies
Office report, 80% of drugs smuggled into the US in 2012 came from maritime routes. 30% of the drugs that arrived in the US by
sea were transported via narco submarines. About 85% of the cocaine smuggling between
South America and the US takes place in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Authorities prefer to stop the drug smuggling
on the ocean, before it reaches land because it reduces violence and maximizes the impact
of cargo loss. When a narco sub successfully transports a
load, upon arrival the drug packages are immediately broken into smaller loads for distribution,
which are much harder to detect. As dispersal happens, the potential for violent
incidents to occur rises. Currently the US Coast Guard is only managing
to stop an estimated 11% of the vessels that pass through the East Pacific. The authorities have visibility on the majority
of smuggling traffic, but don’t have the capacity to address all the nefarious activity. Exacerbating the issue is the fact the Pacific
ocean is huge, about the same size as the contiguous US and the Coast Guard has a limited
number of boats for patrolling. At any given time 6-10 ships are on watch. Furthermore, 70% percent of the Coast Guard
fleet is over 50 years old; some of the aging boats are slower and require a lot of upkeep
to be mission ready. Even when the Coast Guard does manage to catch
a narco sub, they have to move fast. The vessels have built in valves that allow
for purposeful dumping of drug evidence into the ocean and also sinking of the vessels
to avoid seizure. The smugglers know that the Coast Guard will
not allow them to drown. Originally per maritime law, smugglers had
to be rescued and released without criminal charges, usually back to their country of
origin if there was no physical evidence of wrongdoing. In 2008, the US Drug Trafficking Vessel Interdiction
Act was enacted to close this legal loophole. It’s now easier to prosecute smugglers in
narco submarines whether they are caught with illicit product or not. Convicted smugglers are punished with prison
terms of up to 20 years in the U.S. The June 18th seizure was 1 of 14 interdictions
that took place during a month-long drug operation in international waters in the East Pacific. During the mission, over 39,000 pounds (17,690
kgs) of cocaine and 933 pounds (423 kgs) of marijuana worth over $569 million ended up
being seized by the Munro and two other Coast Guard cutters. In honor of the successful mission, several
dignitaries attended a narcotics off boarding event hosted on Naval Air Station North Island
in San Diego, California. Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech welcoming
the Coasties home and praising a job well done. Have you heard of any crazy missions the US
Coastguard has done other than rescuing people lost at sea and stopping smugglers? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video
the Insane Way El Chapo Escaped Prison! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

100 thoughts on “Crazy Moving Submarine Drug Bust

  1. We need a wall in the water! 2 months ago that ship in Philadelphia had all them cargo full of drugs. Build That Wall in the water🤣😂

  2. Demand for drugs will always exist. Making them illegal only boosts the price and makes everyone involved( At least those in the upper echelons) even more wealthy.
    Did we not learn anything from Al Capone's business model during prohibition?

  3. Did you watch the beginning or is it supposed to sound like it cut in later than you meant to and not even give any background before telling what happened

  4. 2:16
    Mexico is Canada? Why are there always mistakes in these videos? I actually can't even like the vids anymore they're so poorly done.

  5. It wasn't a submarine. It was a cheap handmade leaking submersible.

    This is old news. But the real footage is great.

  6. I'm still trying to figure out (and if you know, i'd be interested to hear the reason) why the boarding party was all wearing night vision googles in broad daylight?

  7. The fact that pence calls 11% seizure a job well done just proves how much he is in denial of the fact that the us has lost the war on drugs greatly. It’s a waste of money.

  8. Makes you wonder if a lot of that coke is in turn being sold back on the streets by our corrupt government. You can't independently verify 17 tons or whatever is destroyed, we cannot prove they aren't using it.

  9. As long as be demand, there is supply

    you America, fighting pointlessly everywhere… with drug… in middle east… with Corruption…
    must be smarter.

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