ASTORIA, Ore. — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast (WMEC-632) returned home July 30 following a 56-day counternarcotic patrol to the eastern Pacific Ocean, the Coast Guard Pacific Area said in a release.
The crew interdicted five suspected smuggling vessels, including three pangas, a fishing vessel and a sailboat, and the crew recovered floating bales of contraband yielding more than 23,000 pounds of cocaine.
The Steadfast crew offloaded more than 26,000 pounds of seized cocaine in San Diego on July 26, which was a result of the cutter’s five interdictions, bale recovery and an interdiction case by the Coast Guard Cutter Robert Ward (WPC-1130).
The cocaine, worth an estimated $350 million, was seized by the crews while the cutters were patrolling international waters off the coasts of Mexico and Central and South America from late June to mid-July.
“This was 26,000 pounds of cocaine that will not make it to the main streets of the USA, and it also gives us the opportunity to make sure we can continue to combat transnational criminal organizations who transport this cocaine deep in the Pacific every single day,” said Rear Adm. Peter Gautier, the 11th Coast Guard District’s commander. “Because we know that with a supply chain of illegal narcotics, at every single step there’s violence, instability and despair.”
Steadfast’s seizure of more than 23,000 pounds of cocaine marks the largest amount of cocaine seized by crews aboard a 210-foot Reliance-class medium-endurance cutter during a single counternarcotic deployment in Coast Guard history.
Many of the medium-endurance cutters in service today are more than 50 years old. The Coast Guard’s medium-endurance cutters represent 70% of the service’s counter-drug interdiction fleet. These cutters are approaching the end of their service life. Replacing this aging fleet with the offshore patrol cutter is one of the Coast Guard’s top priorities. Even though medium-endurance cutters are still highly effective, as shown by the narcotics interdictions, the ships can be difficult and expensive to maintain and operate.
As these cartels become more advanced in their methods at sea, the Coast Guard is recapitalizing the fleet with modern assets equipped to detect, interdict and disrupt the growing flow of illegal drugs, weapons and people in the eastern Pacific.
The offshore patrol cutter will provide a critical capability bridge between national security cutters like the Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL-755), which offloaded 39,000 pounds of cocaine earlier this month, and fast response cutters like the Robert Ward, which seized more than 3,000 pounds of the cocaine offloaded July 26. The Robert Ward’s interdiction was the first cocaine seizure made by a fast response cutter in the Eastern Pacific.
“There are few closer relationships than those among the members of a ship’s crew performing a dangerous, important mission,” said Cmdr. Dan Ursino, the Steadfast’s commanding officer. “Steadfast’s crew has worked as a remarkable, dedicated team with a strong common goal — protecting their nation from the deadly, destructive effects of illegal drugs.”