HMCS Edmonton disrupts cocaine smuggling three times in four days in East Pacific

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Article / December 13, 2016 / Project number: cjoc

By Capt Rick Donnelly, Operation CARIBBE Public Affairs Officer

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Edmonton assisted the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) in the disruption of three separate illicit drug shipments from November 15 to 18, 2016, in international waters off the Pacific coast of Central America. The combined weight of drugs, confirmed to be cocaine by the USCG, was an estimated 2,120 kg. The Canadian Armed Forces ship was participating in Operation CARIBBE off the Pacific Coast of North and Central America.

HMCS Edmonton’s first disruption came on November 15, 2016. Acting on information from the Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATFS), the ship and its crew vectored towards the last known position of a suspect vessel, a panga-style fishing boat, with overhead positioning provided by a HC-130J USCG aircraft. The panga had jettisoned its illicit cargo at this point, but with probable cause established, a USCG helicopter disabled the panga’s engines using precise and direct fire and a USCG Law Enforcement Detachment team attached to Edmonton boarded the vessel and the four suspected drug smugglers were apprehended. HMCS Edmonton, meanwhile, spent the next 10 hours searching the ocean for the jettisoned cocaine, but was only able to secure one bale totalling 40 kg. The remaining bales that were observed being jettisoned had an estimated weight of610 kg and were lost at sea. The four suspected smugglers were transferred to USCG Cutter Dauntless.

On November 17, HMCS Edmonton once again found itself on an active hunt, again tracking a panga. In this instance, it was a member of HMCS Edmonton who spotted the panga on the horizon. As before, the panga crew immediately jettisoned its load in an attempt to destroy evidence as well as lighten their load in the hopes of evading capture. This action proved fruitless, however, as 16 bales of cocaine weighing a total of 760kg were recovered, with three suspected smugglers apprehended and subsequently transferred to the USCG Cutter Hamilton.

HMCS Edmonton’s final hit came on November 18, right on the heels of its second disruption. Acting on information from both JIATFS and an airborne HC-130J aircraft, Edmonton moved to secure yet another cocaine jettison field. While the vessel responsible for the jettison, again a panga, was able to place an insurmountable distance between itself and Edmonton, the crew was able to retrieve 15 bales of cocaine from the ocean, weighing an estimated 710 kg.

Lieutenant-Commander Lucas Kenward, an Operation CARIBBE veteran (having captained HMCS Edmonton previously on Op CARIBBE in the spring of 2016), was understandably proud of his crew and of the cross-agency collaboration involved in making these disruptions.

Edmonton’s interceptions this week are the result of the crew’s focused training in advance of deployment and tireless effort while deployed. I am incredibly proud of their efforts to date,” said Lieutenant-Commander Kenward. “Edmonton has demonstrated the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to communicate, share information and seamlessly integrate with the maritime patrol aircraft and surface units of our US Coast Guard and US Navy allies to combat narcotics trafficking in the Eastern Pacific.“

Its tenth year now complete, Operation CARIBBE is Canada's participation in Operation MARTILLO, an ongoing international task force aimed at drug interdiction and counter smuggling operations in the Caribbean Sea and in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central and South America.

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