The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf from Alameda, California, was vectored to a self-propelled semi-submersible, or SPSS, in the Eastern Pacific and found $203 million worth of cocaine.
Alerted by a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol P-3 Orion, the Bertholf moved in March 3 to intercept the vessel with two of her fast boats. An armed Coast Guard boarding team took four individuals into custody and found a loaded gun and 12,800 pounds of Colombia’s finest in the hold of the DIY U-boat.
“SPSS interdictions are inherently dangerous, yet we persevere to disrupt the funding sources of illicit organizations causing violence and instability in Central America,” said Bertholf‘s skipper, Capt. Laura Collins, in a statement. “Our boarding teams are trained to constantly assess and prioritize the safety of our personnel and the SPSS crew during the case.”
As noted by the agency in a statement, in the past nine months the Coast Guard has interdicted five SPSS vessels. These vessels are constructed for illicit trafficking with a mostly submerged hull; a cockpit and exhaust pipe are visible just above water as shown in the above video. While not true submarines, these vessels are extremely difficult to detect and interdict because of their low-profile.