US Coast Guard officials have offloaded approximately 18 tonnes of cocaine in San Diego, following 18 seizures in the Eastern Pacific Ocean

US Coast Guard crews have seized approximately 18 tonnes of cocaine from boats in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in the last four months.

The drugs, which were intercepted in international waters off the coast of Central and South America between March and June, were offloaded in San Diego yesterday (15 June).

The load represents 15 interdictions of suspected drug smuggling vessels, known as pangas, and three cases of seized bales of cocaine dumped by suspected smugglers.

The crew of the 418-foot US Coast Guard cutter, Waesche was responsible for seven cases, seizing approximately 17,619 pounds.

US Coast Guard officials in blue uniforms stand next to some of the cocaine seized from drug dealers in the Eastern Pacific Ocean

The cocaine seized by the US Coast Guard

Around 5,346 pounds of cocaine was seized by the crew of the 210-foot medium endurance cutter, Valiant, which is homeported in Jacksonville, Florida.

The crew of the Hamilton, a 418-foot National Security Cutter homeported in Charleston, South Carolina was responsible for seizing 4,116 pounds of the Class A drug, while 3,712 pounds of cocaine was intercepted by the crew of the 210-foot Confidence.

The Washington-based 210-foot endurance cutter, Active intercepted one case, confiscating an estimated 2.215 pounds of cocaine.

The crews of the cutters Mohawk, Dependable and Campbell were also responsible for seizing one case each of the class A drug.

The US Coast Guard said combating transnational organised crime networks, from which the illegal drug trade stems, is of “paramount importance to the national security of the U.S., and is a mission in which the Coast Guard and partner agencies are heavily engaged”.

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During Fiscal Year 2016, the US Coast Guard seized more than 416,600 pounds of cocaine and took 585 suspected smugglers into custody from the Eastern Pacific.

Numerous US agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the operation, along with allied and international partner agencies.

The US Coast Guard said transnational organised crime groups are “vying for control of illicit trafficking routes and power in numerous Latin American countries, resulting in increased violence and instability.”

US Coast Guard officials guard bales of cocaine seized from smugglers in the Eastern Pacific Ocean

Bales of cocaine being unloaded at San Diego

“This has led to record high homicide rates in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean with eight of the 10 countries with the highest homicide rates in the world in this region,” it said in a media release.

The overall surveillance and counter-smuggling patrols in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean are coordinated by Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South, part of the Coast Guard’s US Southern Command headquartered in Florida.

The law enforcement phase of the counter-drug mission in the Eastern Pacific occurs under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda.