Coast Guard Cutter Tampa interdicts $240 million in drugs, returns to Portsmouth

Posted at 2:15 PM, Mar 25, 2019

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Tampa returned to Portsmouth Monday following a successful 85-day counter-narcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

During their patrol off the coasts of Central and South America, Tampa’s crew successfully interdicted around 18,000 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated wholesale value of $240 million.

The Coast Guard increased U.S. presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy.

During at-sea interdiction in international waters, detection and monitoring of suspects’ vessels is a joint effort by allied, military or law enforcement personnel. The interdiction, including the actual boarding, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen.

Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Dependable and Venturous worked with multiple inter-agency partners during the patrol and were able to prevent a combined total of nearly $380 million in cocaine from reaching the U.S.

The 18,000 pounds of cocaine seized by Tampa increases the ship’s total to nearly 17 tons of cocaine seized and 17 drug trafficking vessels stopped over the past two years. In addition, Tampa also conducted a combined boarding with the Ecuadorian Coast Guard.

“Everyone aboard Tampa worked extremely hard throughout the patrol to ensure our success for every case that crossed our bow,” said Petty Officer First Class Justin Mulkey, a maritime enforcement specialist aboard the cutter. “It’s truly amazing to see firsthand all of that diligence come together in preventing such a significant amount of cocaine from hitting our streets, as well as apprehending multiple smugglers in the hopes of breaking down the drug trafficking organizations.”

The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific are conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard’s 11th District headquartered in Alameda, California.

Tampa’s crewmembers also shared a personal nautical milestone as they crossed the equator during the patrol and earned the distinguished title of Shellback.

Commissioned in 1983, the Tampa is a multi-mission 270-foot cutter homeported in Portsmouth.