A stunning video published by the U.S. Coast Guard shows crew members boarding a suspected drug smuggling vessel (semi-submersible vessels) in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, with one pounding on the hatch until someone inside opened it, reportedly finding over 17,000 pounds of cocaine worth approximately $600 million.
In the last four years, there’s been an increase in drug cartels from Central and South America using these semi-submersible vessels, Lt. Commander Stephen Brickey told CNN.
These vessels are relatively rare. They’re expensive to build, and cartels have to build them deep in jungles to avoid detection. Once they’re filled with drugs and deployed, Brickey said they’re almost impossible to detect without prior intelligence or an aircraft.
“They blend in,” he said. “Most of the vessel is underwater, so it’s hard to pick out. They’re painted blue. They match the water.”
Even if the Coast Guard does manage to catch the vessel, they have to be quick. Every vessel is built with the ability to sink and destroy the evidence within minutes, with the smugglers knowing that the Coast Guard will make sure they don’t drown, Brickey said. The smugglers could also be armed.