Operating in the Eastern Pacific with a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment (LEDET) aboard, the USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) interdicted a so-called narco submarine on Dec. 5.
Narco submarines are one way that drug traffickers smuggle cocaine from Colombia to markets in North America. Littoral Combat Ship Giffords is part of U.S. Southern Command’s enhanced counter-narcotics operations, the command announced.
The low-profile vessel (LPV) Giffords interdicted is typical of the ones found in that part of the world. Its slick lines, low freeboard barely showing above the water, and slender pencil-thin hull make it hard to see. This is a mass-produced design which has been seen many times before. In fact, it is at least the 19th of this exact model reported since 2017. It was built from roughly crafted fiberglass and is powered by three of the ubiquitous Yamaha Enduro 2-stroke outboard motors.
Its three crew are crammed into a tiny cockpit at the extreme rear of the craft. Running forward beneath the long deck is a narrow tunnel that serves as both a cargo hold and living space. The crew sleep there on the bales of cocaine. At either side of the tunnel are fuel tanks. About halfway to the bow, the tunnel opens out into the main cargo hold. And in front of that are more fuel tanks. The interior is generally cramped, smelly, unhygienic and claustrophobic. Yet the cartels find a ready supply of crew.
In this case, the three-person crew were arrested. And with them, around 4,806 pounds (2,810kg) of cocaine was seized. The cocaine comes in kilogram bricks which are then wrapped in plastic sacks to make bales. The value of this payload is over $100 million.