USCG Cutter Bertholf stops over USD 300 Mln in drugs, returns home

The crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf returned home to Alameda on Friday, 22nd of April, after seizing $329 million in cocaine during a successful 95-day counter narcotics deployment.

The 126-person Alameda-based crew of the Cutter Bertholf interdicted nine smuggling vessels, detained 22 suspected narcotraffickers, and seized over 20,000 pounds of illegal narcotics while deployed in the Eastern Pacific.

The cutter’s success for the patrol was highlighted by the seizure of a self-propelled semisubmersible smuggling vessel, or SPSS, carrying over $200 million of narcotics. This was the second SPSS Bertholf crewmembers have seized in the last year, and the sixth SPSS interdicted by the Coast Guard since early 2015.

“I think that the crew jells really well,” said Petty Officer Second Class Jerome Shipley, who operates the cutter’s navigation systems. “We have a great team spirit.”

Bertholf’s crew partnered with other Coast Guard and Navy assets in the area, as well as maritime patrol aircraft from a number of partner agencies to locate and intercept suspect vessels.

“This is a whole-of-government effort,” said Captain Laura Collins, Bertholf’s Commanding Officer. “We have a uniquely talented crew – and we rely on the Coast Guard’s robust partnerships to carry out the counter narcotics mission.”

Prior to returning to Alameda, the cutter docked in San Diego to transfer 14 tons of seized narcotics to the Drug Enforcement Administration for disposal. This total was the result of a number of interdictions made by several Coast Guard cutters as well as a Coast Guard law enforcement team embarked on a U.S. Navy ship, in addition to the drugs seized by Bertholf’s crew.

“The offload is always refreshing,” said Petty Officer Third Class Andrew Davis, an electronics technician. “When you’re under all the pressure, you don’t see the big picture. When it’s actually out there on the pier, it’s the fruit at the end of the harvest.”

Bertholf was deployed to support Joint Interagency Task Force-South, or JIATF-S, counter narcotics operations in the Eastern Pacific. JIATF-S coordinates the detection and monitoring of illegal trafficking using Coast Guard and Department of Defense assets, as well as those from other agencies and partner nations. All interdictions are carried out by Coast Guard personnel under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard district, headquartered in Alameda.

Image: US Coast Guard