Around 36,000lbs of cocaine has been offloaded from the Coast Guard cutter Bertholf following counter-drug patrols in February and March

The Coast Guard offloaded approximately 36,000lbs of cocaine in San Diego last week. The illegal haul was was seized from 17 encounters with suspected smuggling vessels off the coasts of Central and South America between early February and early March.

The cocaine offloaded from the 418ft national security cutter Bertholf has a street value of around half a billion dollars and was seized during anti-drug operations by several Coast Guard vessels.

Cutter Bertholf docks in San Diego with 36,000lbs cocaine

Coast Guard offloads 36,000lbs cocaine off cutter Bertholf

“This offload by the Bertholf represents the great work being conducted in the Eastern Pacific combating the transnational organized crime groups, behind the drug trade,” said Rear Adm. Todd Sokalzuk, the 11th Coast Guard District commander, who oversees the law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific region.

“Thanks in part to the to the hard work and dedication of the brave crew men and women of the Bertholf, and other ships on patrol, we’re seizing record amounts of cocaine for the third year in a row.”

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“I’m proud of the hard work and dedication of my crew, as well as the crews of Coast Guard Cutters Bear, Diligence, Harriet Lane, Venturous and the joint and interagency personnel who work hand-in-hand,” said captain John Driscoll, the Bertholf’s commanding officer. “These crews worked around-the-clock to seize this load of contraband that denies traffickers about half a billion dollars’ worth of illicit proceeds.”

Crew members arrange bales of cocaine

Two Coast Guard members arrange bales of cocaine on the flight deck in preparation for a drug offload at the B Street Pier in San Diego

The bulk of the offload consisted of seized drugs from 17 interdictions by the following vessels:

  • Venturous, one case, estimated 2,877 pounds.
  • Bear, three cases, estimated 9,016 pounds.
  • Diligence, three cases, estimated 3902 pounds.
  • Bertholf, four cases, estimated 5,103 pounds.
  • Harriet Lane, six cases, estimated 15,434 pounds.

As part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy, the Coast Guard has increased its presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug-transit zones.