The Pacific Ocean – The Navy’s last frigate is having a busy final deployment. The Norfolk-based USS Kauffman and its embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) made another large narcotics bust on May 16th.
The guided-missile frigate seized 1,775 kg of cocaine, worth an estimated wholesale value of approximately $59 million.
A suspected smuggling vessel was spotted during a routine patrol of international waters in the Eastern Pacific as part of Operation Martillo.
The LEDET team boarded the vessel and seized the illicit cargo, some of which was jettisoned overboard before the boarding.
Three crew members of the Costa Rica-flagged ship were taken into custody.
“This was a complex event that required assistance from several agencies in support of Kauffman and her crew in order to see the operation succeed,” said Cmdr. Michael Concannon, commanding officer of USS Kauffman. “My crew and I feel fortunate to have captured such a large cache of drugs and those responsible for its transportation.”
This is the third large narcotics seizure of the frigate’s deployment. On May 6th the Kauffman recovered approximately $23 million in drugs from the waters of the Eastern Pacific, and on February 28th the ship seized $33.9 million of cocaine and arrested eight crewmen from a ship in the Caribbean Sea. The Kauffman has now seized approximately $115 million in narcotics during the deployment.
The Kauffman is currently deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Martillo, a joint international law enforcement and military operation involving the U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nations that targets illicit trafficking routes in the waters off Central America.
Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific is done by Joint Interagency Task Force South headquartered in Key West, Florida. U.S. maritime law enforcement and the interdiction phase of operations in the Eastern Pacific region occur under the tactical control of the Coast Guard 11th District headquartered in Alameda, California.