14 December 2007

Cocaine Drug Runners Forced to Go Semi-Submersible

Radar and aerial drug surveillance has grounded most drug smuggling flights, and forced drugrunners to resort to sea routes. For long distance runs from South America to the Caribbean, (Puerto Rico and Cuba are two stopover islands used) boats with low radar profiles are preferred. Semi-submersibles have become quite popular with drugrunners--capable of carrying several tons of cocaine--but the Colombian Navy may have picked up a few tricks from the US Coastguard on detecting these sneaky boats.
The Colombian Navy took down another cocaine carrying submarine [PHOTO], off the Pacific coast. This sub appeared to be carrying several tons of cocaine, but the crew of four scuttled the craft before the navy could capture it. The water was about 9,000 feet deep where the craft went down. The four crewmen of the submersible were captured, and found to have traces of cocaine on their clothing. The submersible was first spotted by an air force plane, which called in a nearby navy patrol boat. That makes the third cocaine carrying sub to be caught in the last three months. This makes ten such craft the Colombians have captured in the last two years.
Strategy Page by way of The Subreport

The US Coast Guard is also picking up a number of these semi-submerisbles along the drug seaways between S. America and US waters.
Coast Guard officials in Alameda, Calif., said a 50-foot semi-submersible craft was spotted Monday by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection surveillance aircraft about 300 miles southwest of the Mexico-Guatemala border. The vessel was abandoned by its crew and sank a short time later, the Coast Guard said. The cocaine bundles bobbed to the surface as a boarding team from the USS DeWert approached to rescue the crew.

"This case shows the challenges our counter-drug patrol forces face, and the lengths to which the drug smuggling organization will go to get their deadly product to the U.S.," said Rear Adm. Craig Bone, tactical commander of U.S. counter drug operations in the Eastern Pacific. "This low-profile semi-submersible craft was very difficult to detect."
While you might think that regular submarines would serve better than semi-submersibles, apparently the semi-'s are cheaper, capable of carrying more cargo, and given the limited submersion time of most conventional subs, the semi-'s are almost as stealthy. Unfortunately for the drug interdiction effort, most of the semi-submersibles appear to be getting through--judging by cocaine prices graphed below.The total cocaine market is estimated to be over US$70 Billion. Apparently Venezuela is willing to lend a helping hand to the cocaine trade. Very neighborly of Hugo, eh?

Even at those bargain basement prices, cocaine is profitable enough to allow drug runners to buy new boats (for those lost to interdiction), and there are profits aplenty for distributors to bribe federal and local law enforcement. If you want to know the approximate profits and mark-ups at each step in the cocaine production, and distribution pathway, check out the YouTube graphics below:

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Blogger Will Brown said...

The obvious (to me, at least) next step is to equip these semi-submersabiles with a snorkel system and run them at shallow depth (3 to 5 fathoms). This is a trivial modification engineering-wise and reduces a vessels radar and visual signature to that of the snorkel float. Travel at a slow enough speed (to keep the wake down) and detection becomes a matter of luck.

Saturday, 15 December, 2007  
Blogger Dennis Mangan said...

Next step for the authorities is bombing the sub pens, like the Allies did in northern France. If they can find them, that is.

Saturday, 15 December, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

Will: Maybe so, although fully submerged running with snorkel air intake would require some added sophistication and cost to the operation. But with all the money to be made, you may be right. Maybe that is what the smarter runners are doing, which is why the cost of cocaine stays low?

Dennis: I am not sure that the semi-submersibles require any special docks or pens. If launching sites are in Venezuela, the state authorities are probably involved somehow in the operation. The same applies to Cuba.

Saturday, 15 December, 2007  

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