Unusually Large Narco Submarine May Be New Challenge For Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard, and Navy, have faced an array of so-called narco submarines, purpose built for smuggling cocaine, for the last fifteen years. These are constantly evolving. Now a super-sized narco submarine has been discovered in the Colombian Jungle. It represents another evolution of the threat facing U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Enhanced Counter-Narcotics Operations. The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, partners navies and law enforcement, are determined to stop these vessels. But it is very challenging because they are designed to get through.

The new narco-submarine is reported to be much longer than the one found in Galicia, Spain, in … [+] November 2019. There are clear indications that it was designed by the same person however.

H I Sutton

The Colombian Army, one of SOUTHCOM’s partners, made the discovery on August 6. They found it before it could carry its payload north towards the drugs market in North America. It was destroyed where they found it so we may never know the full details of the design. But it is clear that it is very large, and in fact the official estimates make it the largest of its type ever found.

Colombian law enforcement sources report (in Spanish) that is was about 100 feet long, 10 feet across and able to carry 6-8 tons of narcotics. It’s large size opens up the possibility that it was intended to travel further than normal ones. This may have implications for law enforcement in North America and further afield.

It is technically of a type called a low profile vessel (LPV). This is because it doesn’t fully submerge, instead riding extremely low in the water which makes it very hard to see. Locally they are called “narcosubmarinos’ or semi-submersibles. And in some law enforcement circles they are termed SPSS (Self-Propelled Semi-Submersible). In the detailed taxonomy it is a LPV-IM-VSV, meaning Low Profile Vessel, Inboard motor, Very Slender Vessel.

Like virtually all narco submarines this one was built in an artisan boatyard hacked out of the forest. It was on a tributary of the Naya River in Buenaventura, a sparsely populated area on the Pacific coast of Colombia. The Colombian Army patrol here because it is commonly used for narco submarines.

The location suggests that it would take a route up to Mexico via the Eastern Pacific. From there the drugs would be taken overland to markets in the United States. It’s blue camouflage suggests that it was intended to go far out in the Pacific to avoid detection. Ones which take the inshore route are more often painted sea green.

A Coast Guard team from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88) … [+] interdicted this narco submarine on June 2. It is much smaller than the latest one found and was carrying 2.2 tons of narcotics.

US Coast Guard

But its large size raises the question of whether it was destined for somewhere else? Over the years narco-subs have been getting smaller and typically only carry 1.6 tons of cocaine. This seems to be the optimum amount for the drug trafficking organizations (DTOs). So it is bucking this trend.

Despite this narco submarines are, generally, capable of reaching the United States directly. But they have not been known to try. So it might be intended for other longer range trips out into the Pacific. Possibly to rendezvous with merchant vessels heading to Australia, New Zealand or Asia. We can only speculate why it is larger than normal, but there is another significant hint.

This narco sub was almost certainly built by the same person who designed one which traveled from Colombia, down the Amazon River through Brazil, and all the way across the Atlantic. It was caught in Galicia, Spain in November 2019. That design was very similar and has the hallmarks of the same master boat builder. If they can build them to handle the Atlantic, many things are possible.

The Colombian Army got to this one before the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard had to interdict it at sea. But have other ‘super-sized’ narco submarines already gotten through?

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Posted by on Aug 10 2020. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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