By Ezra Fieser / ISH
January 23, 2014 (ISH) The United States and the British Royal navies recently made separate narcotics seizures, marking continued success for Operation Martillo, an international mission that gathers 14 partner nations to curtail illicit trafficking routes on both coasts of the Central American isthmus.
On Jan. 13, the U.S. Navy announced it seized 313 kilograms of cocaine in the eastern Pacific in late December. The USS Rentz launched a helicopter that caught a go-fast boat carrying the shipment, which was worth an estimated US$10.4 million. Three suspects were arrested in connection with the seizure and handed over to Ecuadoran authorities.
The Rentz’ bust was its fourth in recent months, as it has confiscated about 3,000 kilograms of cocaine.
“Overall, this mission has a high operational tempo. It’s up to us to keep the pressure on,” Cmdr. Lance Lantier, the USS Rentz’s commanding officer, said in a prepared statement. “The success of [our most recent] operation reflects our continued commitment to countering the flow of illegal narcotics while maintaining a forceful presence.”
On Dec. 26, a British Royal Navy ship seized a huge shipment of marijuana from a dilapidated fishing vessel in the Caribbean.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Wave Knight, a British ship carrying U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Navy personnel, boarded the shipping vessel – called the Miss Kameney – after an overnight chase.
Aboard the vessel, officers recovered about 250 kilograms of marijuana hidden in sacks and a crew of five suspects, who were detained and turned over to U.S. authorities in the Dominican Republic. Officials estimated the shipment’s value at more than US$1.5 million.
“The operation, successfully conducted when most of us were enjoying a Christmas break, is testament to the hard work of our service personnel and of the demanding tasks we ask them to carry out,” Great Britain Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said in a prepared statement. “I am proud of the work of RFA Wave Knight and the role her crew has played in stopping these drugs reaching the streets.”
The bust was the second major marijuana seizure in the year for the Wave Knight, which has been deployed in the Caribbean as part of Operation Martillo.
In September, the crew aboard the Wave Knight seized 1,276 kilograms of marijuana from a small fishing vessel in the central Caribbean, south of Jamaica. In that case, seven suspects were detained. The drugs and the suspects were turned over to authorities in Jamaica.
In remarks about the bust, Capt. Duncan Lamb, commanding officer of the RFA Wave Knight, recognized the strength of the international effort, which also includes Canada, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama and Spain. It’s led by the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force South.
“The entire ship’s company – Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Navy and US Law Enforcement Team – as well as [headquarters] and prosecuting staff ashore in mainland USA are delighted with this result,” he said. “It has been a truly international team effort. … This operation is a notable disruption to the regional drug trade.”
The Royal Navy said the Wave Knight took part in several operations in 2013 that seized or stopped three tons of drugs from being shipped. The ship worked alongside the HMS Lancaster, which seized 1.2 metric tons of marijuana and 400 kilograms of cocaine in the region before returning to Britain, the Royal Navy said.
The Royal Navy’s success in the region is among the highlights of Operation Martillo’s successes.
Launched two years ago in January, Operation Martillo (Spanish for hammer) brings together countries throughout the Americas and in Europe to better patrol maritime channels against drug traffickers. The operation is aimed at shutting down routes through Central America, but it has also yielded results in the Caribbean, which drug traffickers are increasingly using to move illicit drugs to the United States and Europe.