The U.S. Coast Guard has seized US$1.4 billion worth of illicit drugs from multiple ships, thanks in part to a Halifax-based Royal Canadian Navy ship.
American, Canadian and Dutch authorities intercepted a total of 27,080 kg of cocaine and 649 kg of cannabis from drug-carrying vessels on the high seas.
Among the ships that participated in the bust included the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Shawinigan, a coastal defence vessel based in Halifax. The Shawinigan had been in the Caribbean Basin since early June as a part of Operation Caribbe, the Canadian contribution to U.S.-led anti-drug trafficking efforts in the Caribbean Sea.
The drugs were all offloaded to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — the largest drug offloading in the U.S. Coast Guard’s history. U.S. and Canadian authorities held a news conference on Thursday at the pier, standing in front of some of the narcotics that were seized.
“The Canadian government and the Canadian Defence Forces brings an incredible capability in defeating transnational organized crime,” Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, who is the Atlantic area commander for the U.S. Coast Guard, said during the news conference.
“I’m grateful to HMCS Shawinigan, that they could be here as well to showcase Canada’s commitment.”
Canadian Armed Forces public affairs officer Lt. Nicolas Plourde-Fluery told CTVNews.ca over the phone on Friday that between July 12 and 13, the Shawinigan helped the U.S. Coast Guard conduct two raids in the Caribbean Sea, which led to the seizure of 1,348 kg of cocaine.
On July 18, Shawinigan crewmembers intercepted and boarded a small vessel, seizing 675 kg of cocaine. On July 21, another small ship was intercepted and boarded by the Shawinigan, leading to the seizure of 774 kg of cocaine.
Across four interdictions in 10 days, the HMCS Shawinigan seized nearly 2,800 kg of cocaine worth US$70 million.
“I cannot express how proud I am to have sailed with these folks, and how proud I am of what we have accomplished and how we accomplished it. And I know both Canadians and Americans alike feel the same,” Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Sanson told reporters on Thursday. “Four seizures in 10 days is extraordinary.”
Maj. Gen. Paul Ormsby, who is the Canadian Defence Attaché in Washington, said the operation is a testament to the close and productive partnership between Canada and the U.S.
“The kind of co-operation that we see on this pier today. It’s just one of the thousands of impressive examples of that co-operation every day,” he said on Thursday.
The HMCS Shawinigan is expected to return to Halifax on Monday, Plourde-Fluery said.