San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Cocaine-toting sub busted in Pacific Ocean

The U.S. warship USS McInerney intercepted a 22-meter long semi-submersible vessel in the Pacific last Saturday, seizing six tons of cocaine and taking into custody four Colombian crew members, according to Costa Rica´s Public Security Ministry.

It is the second bust of its kind in national or international waters off the coast of Costa Rica.

In November 2006, the U.S. Coast Guard seized a 14-meter-long submersible carrying three tons of cocaine near Isla del Coco. Its crew consisted of two Colombians, a Guatemalan and a Sri Lankan.

“This forms part of the coordinated work as a part of the joint patrolling agreement with the United States,” Public Security Minister Janina del Vecchio said in a press release. That agreement has been in effect since 1999.

Del Vecchio said deployment of the improvised subs is growing.

Authorities have given different versions of where the sub was seized. Here, the Public Security Ministry said it was in international waters off the Costa Rican coast but the press office for the Supreme Court said it was taken 350 nautical miles off the coast of Guatemala.

“For security reasons, the submersible is being (towed) to the Coast Guard station in Puntarenas where an inspection will be conducted,” states a court press release.

Not true submarines, the semi-submersibles are rudimentary and have to stay near the surface of the water and use breathing tubes to keep the crew alive. Although rudimentary, they are often effective at avoiding radar and surface detection.

Mexican authorities seized a 10-meter sub with six tons of cocaine off their Pacific coast in July, according to the Associated Press.

The recent cocaine seizure is the second for the USS McInerney, a guided-missile frigate, in the last two years. According to the U.S. Navy´s Web site, the vessel seized 2.3 tons of cocaine from a fishing boat in February 2007.

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