After 68 days patrolling the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alert (WMEC 630) returned to its Astoria, Ore., homeport on Oct. 8.
During that time, crew members of the 210-foot medium endurance cutter traveled more than 13,700 nautical miles from Oregon to Columbia, providing law enforcement support for various initiatives, including counter-drug missions, search-and-rescue operations and international law enforcement training engagements, according to the Coast Guard.
Crew members also approached three Costa Rican fishing vessels and seized 1,440 pounds of marijuana worth $1.4 million.
“Furthermore, during the boarding of the fishing vessel Mujer Gitana, Alert’s crew detected and articulated numerous factors of reasonable suspicion allowing Costa Rica to issue a return to port order,” the Coast Guard said.
This led Costa Rican law enforcement members to find a secret compartment beneath a reversible steel hydraulic door system, “a smuggling technique that reportedly has never been seen before on a Costa Rican vessel,” according to the Guard.
The result? The discovery of 729 kilograms of cocaine valued at $21.1 million and the resulting detention of seven suspects, the agency said.
“I’m extremely proud of the crew’s dedication, hard work, and sustained high levels of performance over the last two months,” said Cmdr. Matthew R. Kolodica, the vessel’s commanding officer. “The Alert and crew truly (epitomized) the Coast Guard’s motto ‘Semper Paratus – Always Ready,’ and had a direct positive impact on stemming the flow of illicit narcotics to America, and we helped counter its destabilizing effects in Central and South America.”