By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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The 210-foot cutter was on routine patrol in the eastern Pacific when it was directed to intercept a suspicious Panamanian fishing vessel that was spotted by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection P-3 aircraft in international waters about 140 miles offshore, the Coast Guard said.
An Active boarding team found about 40 burlap sacks filled with an estimated $37 million worth of cocaine in the fishing vessel's cargo hold.
The contraband, fishing boat and five suspected smugglers were turned over to Panamanian authorities, according to the Alameda, Calif.-based 11th Coast Guard District.
“I am extremely proud of this crew,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Philip Crigler, Active's commanding officer.
“They have continually lived up to the cutter's nickname, the 'Li'l Tough Guy.' Through their tenacity, we have had great success on this patrol keeping illegal drugs from reaching the shores of the United States.”
Last December, a Coast Guard helicopter launched from the Active used gunfire to stop a boat carrying 7,100 pounds of marijuana off the coast of Mexico.
That seizure occurred one week after an Active interceptor boat chased down another vessel being used to smuggle 5,000 pounds of marijuana off the coast of San Diego.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.