The Coast Guard's newest cutter busted 2,100 pounds of cocaine before it even got to home port for the first time
US Coast Guard
- Navy destroyer Michael Murphy and Coast Guard cutter Midgett teamed up to bust 2,100 pounds of cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean in July.
- The Coast Guard has been hauling in record amounts of cocaine, and this was likely the first of many such busts for the Midgett.
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In July, yet-to-be-commissioned Coast Guard cutter Midgett passed through the Panama Canal and started a roughly 5,000-mile trip to Honolulu.
The Coast Guard accepted the Midgett in April, and it didn't leave the Mississippi shipyard where it was built until June 11. But the newest national-security cutter was ready as it transited the eastern Pacific, and with good reason - the ship helped intercept more than 2,100 pounds of cocaine before it even made it to its home port.
On July 25, a MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the US Navy destroyer Michael Murphy spotted a low-profile go-fast boat - a kind of vessel often called a "narco sub."
Some 80% of the cocaine smuggled to North America comes through the eastern Pacific, often in narco subs - sometimes true submarines or semi-submersibles, but usually low-profile vessels, of which the service has seen a recent resurgence.
As the helicopter approached, a hatch on top of the go-fast boat opened, and, the Navy said, three passengers began tossing objects in the water. The destroyer's interceptor boat, guided by the helicopter, picked up the objects and pulled alongside, telling the suspects to remain in sight.
The Murphy remained beside the go-fast boat while the the Midgett hurried to the scene, a trip that took five to six hours, according to Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Brickey.
The Coast Guard has law-enforcement authority to conduct a boarding, granted under title 14 US Code § 89, Brickey said in an email. Unlike the Navy, the Coast Guard is exempt from Posse Comitatus.
The Midgett arrived on the scene, and its crew examined the objects thrown overboard, which tested positive for cocaine. Aboard the go-fast boat, the Midgett's boarding team found more than 2,100 pounds of the drug. The cutter's crew also took the three suspected smugglers into custody.
While the Coast Guard has accepted the Midgett, the ship won't be commissioned until August 24, and even then it will take another 18 months — during which it will get upgrades and installations easier done in port than in a shipyard, Brickey said — before it goes out on operations.
Despite being pre-commissioned, "this interdiction showcases how ready our crew is and how capable the national-security cutters are," said Capt. Alan McCabe, the Midgett's commanding officer, who highlighted the importance of partnering with the Navy.
"The command and crew went above and beyond the minimal 'ready for sea' requirements needed to sail the ship to Honolulu," Brickey said of the Midgett. "They also made sure they had the necessary qualifications, training, and inbriefs to execute this mission, knowing that part of their voyage would take them through the eastern Pacific ... a hotbed of smuggling activity. "
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