More than eight and half tons of cocaine seized or recovered in fourteen interdictions in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean were offloaded from the USS Vandergrift (FFG 48) in San Diego, and turned over to federal officials as evidence in the prosecution of suspected smugglers.
Another two tons of contraband seized in five additional cases in the Eastern Pacific region were brought ashore in Florida by US Coast Guard cutters.
All of the contraband, worth an estimated USD 331 million, was intercepted between mid-September and early December by U.S. Coast Guard law-enforcement teams operating from U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy ships patrolling off the coast of Central and South America.
Of the cocaine offloaded in San Diego, Vandergrift and their Coast Guard law enforcement detachment were responsible for intercepting six loads from suspicious vessels or drifting at sea. The USS Gary (FFG 51) and their Coast Guard team accounted for four loads, the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell had two, and the cutters Sherman and Alert each had one.
Of the cocaine loads taken to Florida, the Coast Guard Cutter Legare seized one, and Vandergrift and Gary each intercepted two.
The busts are a result of an ongoing effort dubbed Operation Martillo, a joint, international law enforcement and military operation involving the U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nations, targeting illicit-trafficking routes in the waters off Central America.
Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific is done by a joint agency task force headquartered in Key West, Florida. U.S. maritime law enforcement and the interdiction phase of operations in the region occur under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda, California.