PORTSMOUTH, Va. — While in transit to conduct joint operations off the coast of Guyana as part of Operation Southern Cross, USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) encountered and interdicted a suspected narcotic trafficking vessel south of the Dominican Republic Jan. 7, the Coast Guard Atlantic Area said in a Jan. 11 release.
Having stopped the illicit activity, Stone handed off the case to the USCGC Raymond Evans (WPC 1110), a fast response cutter from Key West, Florida, and continued its patrol south.
Early on Jan. 7, acting on information from a maritime patrol aircraft, the Stone crew approached the vessel of interest and exercised U.S. Coast Guard authorities to stop their transit and interdict illicit maritime trade.
The USCGC Raymond Evans arrived on the scene shortly after. A Coast Guard boarding team from the Raymond Evans conducted a law enforcement boarding, testing packages found aboard the vessel, revealing bales of cocaine estimated at 2,148.5 pounds (970 kilograms) total.
Stone’s crew remained on scene during the search of the vessel to assist if need. Following the boarding, the Raymond Evans crew took possession of the contraband and detained the four suspected narcotics trafficking vessel members. They are working with the U.S. Coast Guard 7th District and Department of Justice on the next steps.
“I’m very proud of the crew for completing this evolution safely and making an immediate impact on our first patrol,” said Capt. Adam Morrison, commanding officer of USCGC Stone (WMSL 758). “This case illustrates that Stone is a competent partner, and our crew is ready for the front-lines. We look forward to our upcoming engagements, first with Guyana.”
Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, said USCGC Stone “is a highly-capable multipurpose platform and ready to conduct missions to save lives, support lawful activities on the high seas, and highlight and build Coast Guard partnerships with other nations.
“I am not surprised that Stone interdicted drug smugglers – it is what the captain, crew, and every U.S. Coast Guard member is prepared to do every day underway. Stone’s crew is exhibiting the highest professional competence, reinforcing that Stone is well-suited to help our partners in the South Atlantic expose and address illicit activities in the maritime domain. These transnational criminal activities – be it illegal fishing or the trafficking of people, drugs, money, etc. – challenge global security, and only together can we combat these threats.”
“Our teammates aboard USCGC Stone are helping keep our shared neighborhood, the Western Hemisphere, safe, successfully stopping illicit narcotics smuggling, while continuing their equally important mission to counter predatory and irresponsible IUU fishing, a growing threat to our partner nations’ sovereignty and our collective regional security,” said Rear Adm. Andrew J. Tiongson, director of operations, U.S. Southern Command.
Operation Southern Cross is a multi-month deployment to the South Atlantic countering illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing while strengthening relationships for maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region.