The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Midgett offloads more than 13 tons of cocaine at Naval Base San Diego on February 16, 2017. The contraband was seized during 21 separate interdictions at sea in the Eastern Pacific Ocean by the cutters, Midgett, Sherman, Tahoma, Diligence and Mellon. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joel Guzman/released).

SAN DIEGO – The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Midgett offloaded more than 13 tons of cocaine at Naval Base San Diego, Thursday.

Several U.S. Coast Guard cutters seized the combined total tons of cocaine in the Eastern Pacific Ocean from mid-November 2016 through January 2017.

The drugs, interdicted in international waters off the coast of Central and South America by crews of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Sherman, Tahoma, Midgett, Diligence and Mellon were offloaded Thursday at Naval Base San Diego from the Midgett.

The load represents 21 separate interdictions of suspected drug smuggling “go-fast” vessels, or pangas, by Coast Guard crews.

The Sherman was responsible for seven cases, seizing an estimated 9,600 pounds. Tahoma was responsible for four cases, seizing an estimated 6,800 pounds.  Midgett was responsible for three cases, seizing an estimated 5,900 pounds. Diligence handled three cases resulting in the seizure of an estimated 2,900 pounds, and Mellon was responsible for one, seizing an estimated 1,100 pounds.

Combating transnational organized crime networks, from which the illegal drug trade stems, is of paramount importance to the national security of the U.S., and is a mission in which the Coast Guard and partner agencies are heavily engaged. During Fiscal Year 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard seized more than 416,600 pounds of cocaine and taken 585 suspected smugglers into custody from the Eastern Pacific.  

“Criminal and terrorist networks operating in the region, often with direct nexus to the United States, pose a direct threat to citizen safety in the Nation and throughout the Western Hemisphere,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft in his Western Hemisphere Strategy. “Many of these networked groups use maritime means to exploit widespread corruption, underfunded government security efforts, and the region’s role as a global transit zone for illicit movements of people, drugs, and contraband.”

Midgett and Mellon are 378-foot high endurance cutters homeported in Seattle, Washington.  Sherman is a 378-foot high endurance cutter from Honolulu, Hawaii. Tahoma is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Diligence is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter stationed in Wilmington, North Carolina.