The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Steadfast returned to its Astoria, Ore. homeport on March 14 following a 69-day counternarcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, where the crew confiscated over 7,500 pounds of cocaine valued at $85.6 million.
The Steadfast had deployed with a Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and air crew based in Jacksonville, Fla. Temporarily assigned crews from the Coast Guard cutter Harriet Lane and soon-to-be commissioned Coast Guard cutter Argus joined in as well.
When notified by a Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of a suspected narcotics smuggling vessel transiting international waters, the Steadfast launched a crew and boarding team that interdicted the vessel after many hours of pursuit.
The Coast Guard said the suspected smugglers jettisoned contraband, resulting in disruption of 2,260 pounds of cocaine valued at $25.6 million.
The Steadfast crew tracked another suspected vessel with assistance from a Mexican Navy surveillance aircraft. The command launched a boat crew and helicopter air crew while the Mexican maritime patrol traced the vessel.
Upon reaching the suspect vessel, the crews seized 3,300 pounds of cocaine valued at $37.5 million.
The next day, the Steadfast launched another boat and air crew to intercept an additional suspect vessel, working with a nearby Mexican naval vessel to vector in a Mexican naval helicopter. The operation resulted in the seizure of 1,984 pounds of cocaine valued at $22.5 million.
Cmdr. Brock S. Eckel, commanding officer of the Steadfast, said the successful coordination between a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and Mexican MPA was a significant step in advancing the strategic partnership in combatting the flow of illicit narcotics in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
“The crew’s operational success was matched only by the strengthening of international and inter-agency relationships along the way,” Eckel said.