On November 13, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter intercepted a self-propelled submersible loaded with over 3,800 pounds of cocaine in international waters off the coast of Panama. All three suspects will face charges in the U.S. The crew of three was arrested and will face charges in the U.S.
While 3,800 pounds of cocaine may sound like a lot, it is small in comparison to a submersible nabbed in March 2016 in the eastern Pacific loaded with 12,800 pounds of cocaine. A submersible with an even larger shipment, 17,000 pounds, was intercepted in 2015 by the USCGC Stratton.
Drug smuggling submersibles and submarines, both self-propelled and towed, are generally referred to as narco submarines. Most operate from the Pacific coast of South America. Smugglers normally unload their cargo onto fast power boats for the final leg to shore and the semi-submersible is scuttled. None have been sighted unloading at North American ports or beaches.
Vice News reports that a report by the US Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) found that, in 2012, 80 percent of illicit drugs smuggled into the US came via maritime routes. Of the drugs that arrived on US shores by sea, 30 percent were found to have been smuggled in narco-subs.