A U.S. Coast Guard crew based in Astoria, Oregon, returned after a 2.5-month deployment that yielded the seizure of $11 million in cocaine and marijuana, officials said.
The Steadfast, which earned the nickname "El Tiburon Blanco," or the white shark in English, returned April 23 after seizing 700 pounds of cocaine and 170 pounds of marijuana. The cutter's deployment included a 69-member crew, plus helicopter personnel from the Air Station Humboldt Bay and a law enforcement team, said spokeswoman Senior Chief Rachel Polish.
The crew patrolled the eastern Pacific Ocean and seized the drugs from two smuggling incidents off the Central American coast, according to a news release. The crew unloaded the drugs April 20 during a port call in San Diego.
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast (WMEC-623) along the western seaboard of North and Central America. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Polish said she could not disclose, for security reasons, the specific locations and general trajectory taken by the Steadfast for those operations. However, the crew traveled 12,000 miles that began with a training stop at a U.S. naval station in Washington before heading south, according to the news release. The crew also stopped in Mazatlan, Mexico, with $2,500 in supplies and equipment, and guardsmen helped repair and paint a classroom and exterior of a school.
Polish said the deployment was part of the broader Operation Martillo — Spanish for hammer. Since its launch in 2012, the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and other agencies have seized 693 metric tons of cocaine, $25 million in cash, and hundreds of vessels and aircraft, and they have arrested 1,863 people, according to the U.S. Southern Command website.
Drug smugglers off the Florida coast called the Steadfast "El Tiburon Blanco" when she was based in St. Petersburg, according to the news release. The vessel's reputation for busting up smugglers made her the first cutter to be awarded the "gold marijuana leaf, indicating one million pounds of marijuana seized," officials said.
The 49-year-old Reliance Class Cutter made her home in Astoria in 1994.