The U.S. Coast Guard has seized over 16 tons of cocaine in international waters. Authorities docked at Port Everglades on Tuesday, carrying the drugs they seized on a 45-day long campaign off the coasts of South and Central America.

The U.S. Coast Guard conducted 17 smuggler stops aboard four Coast Guard ships with the help of the Canadian warship Saskatoon and helicopter support. One of the ships, Cutter James, carried 16 tons of cocaine with an estimated worth of $1.2 billion. Commander of Coast Guard Atlantic Area, Karl Schultz, released a statement praising the crew of Coast Guard Cutter James and the HITRON aviation unit.  Cutter James and HITRON aviation unit were solely responsible for five of the interceptions, where they seized 5.19 tons of cocaine.

Seized Cocaine
The U.S. Coast Guard has seized over 16 tons of cocaine. Image credit: USCG Southwest via Twitter.

U.S. Coast Guard says they only get 20 percent of cocaine smugglers

The U.S. Coast Guard arrested more than 30 suspected traffickers and brought them to U.S. soil, where they await prosecution by U.S.attorneys, according to commanding officer Capt. Mark Fedor.

“To look at those bales as just cocaine is short-sighted,” said Fedor. “When those smugglers are racing across the Caribbean or the Pacific, they’re just not carrying cocaine. They’re delivering violence, corruption, and instability… So we need to work with our interagency partners as well as our allies to deter this threat and to keep it as far from our shores as possible.”

Seized Cocaine
Capt. Kevin Gain commands the helicopter interdiction squad, which on Tuesday celebrated the 500th interruption of smuggling operations, most of which have been run by cartels. Gavin said that they are averaging 12 stops a month, and although he wouldn’t wish to, business has been very good for them. Image credit: USCG Southwest via Twitter.

Fedor and Gavin calculate they catch only around 20 percent of the smugglers. Cocaine is a solicited narcotic in the U.S., so smuggling operations are bound to happen regularly.

“The United States is the biggest consumer of illicit narcotics,” said Fedor. “The massive seizures and offloads is the confluence of two things: The coca crop in Colombia is the biggest it’s been in a long time. At the same time that’s happening, the Coast Guard is introducing more capable assets out there to interdict the flow of cocaine. The fact is there is more of it, and it’s moving north. Our job is to stop that.”

The Coast Guard hopes to beat last year’s cocaine seizing record

In the past three years, the U.S. Coast Guard has set a record for cocaine seizures. In the Guard’s fiscal year 2014, they seized over 22,000 kilograms worth over $600 million. In 2015, 52,000 kilograms valued at $1.5 billion were seized and last year they seized 73,000 kilograms worth $2.2 billion.

Gavin announced that this year they have seized 50,000 kilograms so far, worth $1.5 billion. He believes they are on track on beating last year’s record.

According to Homeland Security Investigations, the drugs will be taken to federal labs where they’ll be tested, other parts will be kept as evidence for trials, and some of the cocaine will be destroyed.

Source: SunSentinel