12 countries, including the Royal Netherlands Navy as a representative of the Netherlands, are currently combating drugs smuggling in a large area of the Caribbean extending to the Pacific Ocean in Operation Martillo.
The emphasis is on South and Central American coastal waters. This operation will prevent drugs being trafficked to the Netherlands, among other countries.
The Royal Netherlands Navy in the Caribbean works in close cooperation with the JIATF-South counter-drugs organisation. The Netherlands therefore has significant involvement in the operation’s planning process. The Navy will deploy sea-going units for an indefinite period. The Dutch Caribbean Coastguard will take part in the operation by deploying the ‘Dash-8’ maritime patrol aircraft and providing assistance in protection of Kingdom of the Netherlands waters.
Overall command of the operation is in the hands of the United States Southern Command, one of the nine operational command centres of the American armed forces. The Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Florida, which is part of Southern Command, is responsible for coordination of the operation. This task force mainly focuses on combating organised crime and drugs smuggling in the region. Other services, such as the Coast Guard and the Drug Enforcement Adminstration (DEA) are also involved.
Belize, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, France, the United Kingdom, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Spain are also taking part in Operation Martillo. Approximately 80% of the cocaine entering the US is transported by sea. In 2011, 19,000 kilos of cocaine, with a street value of 2.35 billion dollars on the American market, was intercepted during operations similar to Operation Martillo.
World Maritime News Staff, February 22, 2012; Image: defensie