Royal Navy and U.S. Coast Guard seize cocaine worth $55m

By Calvin Palmer

A vessel containing $55 million worth of cocaine was seized off the Venezuelan coast today by a U.S. Coast Guard team from Miami, says The Miami Herald.

A Royal Navy frigate has seized cocaine with an estimated wholesale value of £33 million from a speedboat off the coast of South America, says The Daily Telegraph.

The U.S. team was aboard a British Royal Navy frigate on routine patrol when it spotted the crew aboard a nearby vessel tossing packages overboard, said Lt Cmdr Matthew Moorlag, a Coast Guard spokesman.

In a night-time operation, HMS Iron Duke, working with the U.S. Coastguard, boarded the drug traffickers’ vessel and seized the cocaine weighing three-quarters of a tonne.

The go-fast vessel was about 25 miles west of Curacao, an island just north of the Venezuelan state of Falcon.

Iron Duke first spotted the speedboat, known as a “go-fast” which is a vessel specially built by the traffickers, and scrambled its Lynx helicopter to investigate.

After dispatching a Lynx helicopter and having a Coast Guard team board the vessel, U.S. and British forces recovered 36 bales of cocaine worth $55 million — and detained the four-member crew, U.S. officials said.

“That’s that much less cocaine that would end up on the streets,” Moorlag said.

The frigate then launched its seaboats after the helicopter crew observed cocaine bales being thrown overboard from the speedboat.

Along with US Coastguard personnel, the Iron Duke crew members carried out an armed boarding of the vessel and detained the drug traffickers.

The men who were detained are now in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location. Coast Guard officials would not say if the four were still at sea.

As well as seizing the drugs, the speedboat was destroyed as it presented a hazard to local shipping.

The Miami-based team was aboard the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Iron Duke, which was on routine patrol in the Caribbean as part of its counter-narcotics mission when it spotted the go-fast vessel.

The seizure was made while the Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate was carrying out patrols in the Caribbean as part of a multinational task force to counter drug smuggling in the region.

Iron Duke’s executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Alasdair Peppe said: “This is a good start to HMS Iron Duke’s North Atlantic deployment.

“After only a week on patrol the ship has made a significant seizure of cocaine.

“I am very proud of the whole of Iron Duke’s ship’s company, all of whom have played a part in this success.”

For students of journalism, this story demonstrates the shift of emphasis that can occur in newspapers. The Miami Herald plays up the role of the U.S. Coastguard, consigning the Royal Navy to a supporting part in the operation. The Daily Telegraph flies the flag and gives the Royal Navy greater prominence.

The explanation is simple and has nothing to do with jingoism by either publication. A story about the Royal Navy will not sell newspapers in Miami, just as a story about the U.S. Coast Guard will not sell newspapers in Britain. It really is as simple as that.

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Filed under Caribbean, Crime, News, United Kingdom

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