Coast Guard Buoy Tender Patrol Includes Cocaine Interdiction Off of Mexico
SAN FRANCISCO — The Coast Guard Cutter Aspen and crew returned to their homeport on Oct. 31 after sailing nearly 7,000 nautical miles during a 30-day patrol, which included a cocaine interdiction off Mexico, the Coast Guard said in a Nov. 3 release.
“This was a very successful deployment and I could not be more proud of the crew,” said Lt. Cmdr. Justin Vanden Heuvel, Aspen’s commanding officer. “Utilizing a buoy tender as a platform to execute counter-narcotics missions shows the versatility and adaptability of the Coast Guard and the Aspen crew. Day in and day out the crew expertly conducts a wide variety of missions including search and rescue, aids to navigation, fisheries enforcement and in this case, the interdiction of illegal contraband destined for the United States.”
Aspen’s efforts resulted in the interdiction of a suspected smuggling vessel carrying more than 224 pounds of cocaine worth approximately $3.3 million and the apprehension of six suspected smugglers.
The interdiction occurred Oct. 10, after Aspen deployed two 23-foot interceptor boats which made a three-hour pursuit to intercept a suspected smuggling vessel approximately 400 miles off the coast of Mexico.
Also during the deployment, Aspen conducted exercises with the Mexican and Canadian navies aimed to help strengthen international partnerships while degrading and disrupting transnational criminal organization networks.
Commissioned in 2002, Aspen is the Coast Guard’s eighth 225-foot Juniper-Class seagoing buoy tender homeported at Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco. The cutter’s primary area of responsibility stretches across 740 miles of coastline from the California-Oregon border to the California-Mexico border where the ship’s crew service and maintain 76 aids-to-navigation.
While Aspen’s primary mission is aids-to-navigation, where it helps to safeguard commerce by maintaining a vital network of reliable waterway systems for the safe transit of military, commercial and recreational vessels along the California sea-coast, it is also a multimission platform capable of performing missions in search and rescue, law enforcement, homeland security, oil spill recovery and icebreaking operations.
Overall surveillance and counter-smuggling patrols in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean are coordinated by Joint Interagency Task Force South, a national task force headquartered in Florida that executes detection and monitoring of illicit trafficking across all domains and facilitates international and interagency coordination to interdict, disrupt, and dismantle threat networks. The law enforcement phase of the counter-drug mission in the Eastern Pacific occurs under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District based in Alameda.