Northern California Coast Guard crew seizes more than 6 tons of cocaine worth $203 million

A U.S. Coast Guard crew based in Northern California seized more than six tons of cocaine after intercepting a semi-submersible vessel in the Pacific Ocean, the agency announced Monday.

The March 3 bust occurred 300 miles southwest of Panama after a Customs and Border Protection aircraft spotted the drug smuggling boat and alerted the Alameda-based crew of the Coast Guard cutter Bertholf, according to Lt. Donnie Brzuska. 

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The crew seized more than 12,800 pounds of cocaine worth more than $203 million and a loaded gun.  Four suspected drug smugglers were arrested, Brzuska said. It took the crew numerous times to retrieve the drugs. 

It was the second time the Coast Guard has intercepted a self-propelled semi-submersible or SPSS in recent months. Such vessels are able to operate while partially underwater. 

In January, the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Northland intercepted a similar craft 280 miles off the coast of the Mexican-Guatemalan border. 

In all, the agency has intercepted five similar vessels since June 2015, Brzuska said. 

"Transnational organized crime groups continue to adjust their tactics to avoid detection indicated by a recent rise of SPSS vessels," said Vice Adm. Charles Ray, commander of the Coast Guard's Pacific Area. "Despite these efforts, we will continue to execute an offensive strategy that targets, attacks and disrupts these dangerous criminal networks."

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