Saturday, March 31, 2012

Drug Cartels Taking To The Seas...Again

The war on drugs is an ever-changing game of cat and mouse.  As soon as law enforcement officials adapt to the new tactics of the drug cartels and dealers, they come out with innovative ways to elude the authorities.  One of the newest forms of drug shipment is coming from the seas.

In South America, the cartels have begun to use submarines as a way to ship cocaine to United States’ shores.  In 2011, the Honduran navy seized a vessel with around four tons of cocaine and five crewmembers on board (Kaufer, 2011).

Check out this link to read the full story.

Some of the first submarines found were very basic in nature.  They had a steering wheel, throttle, fuel gauge, speedometer, and compass for navigation.  The earlier models were also not fully submersible but rather had vents for air circulation and two small portals for aiding in navigation.  The crewmembers would sleep directly on the floor during the estimated nine-day journey from cocaine production countries like Columbia and Peru to the shores of Mexico or the United States (Inside Edition, 2011). 

As more and more submarines are seized, it’s clear that the cartels aren’t just experimenting with this tactic anymore, they’re using it full swing.  Another brand-new submarine was captured in the middle of a Columbian river last year.  The vessel was 30 meters long and had room for four crewmembers and eight tons of cocaine.  Earlier models were semi-submersible, meaning they weren’t truly submarines, but given the success of earlier models, they have begun to build true submarines with high tech navigation systems, and of course, more room for cocaine (Kaufer, 2011).

It’s estimated that the newer versions of these drug smuggling machines cost around $2 million to manufacture and can carry an estimated 500 million Euros (or about $625 million) in cocaine (Inside Edition, 2011).  The vessels design requires a high level of engineering skills and expertise in fiberglass technology, ballast calculation, and naval navigation systems (Kaufer, 2011).

The submarines leave from Columbia where there are plenty of out-of-work sailors there who are willing to make the dangerous and risky trip for good money.  Once the submarines and their crew deliver the drugs to the destination, they double up on profit by smuggling U.S. made weapons back to Columbia or other production countries (Kaufer, 2011).

The drug cartels have always been able to adapt to law enforcement techniques and always seem to be a step ahead.  It use to be the cartels used planes and hidden runways to smuggle cocaine, then they switched to speedboats until the Coast Guard caught on, and now they’re using submarines.  Law enforcement and military officials are going to have to adapt to the new tactics being used by the cartels before more cocaine floods our streets and the cartels are left with plenty of money to invest into new technologies.


Inside Edition. "Drug Cartels Use Homemade Subs to Smuggle Drugs." News. 04 Aug.
2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2012. <>.

Kaufer, Tobias. "Colombia Drug Cartel's New Vehicle For Shipping Cocaine:
Submarines." Worldcrunch. 19 July 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2012. <>.


  1. I find it interesting the ways drug cartels come up with to smuggle drugs. It is like they stay one step ahead of law enforcement every step of the way. Once law enforcement catch on to their smuggling tactics it is like the cartels are ready with a new one. Obviously the times are always changing and technology keeps improving so I am very interested to see what the cartels will come up with through out my lifetime.

  2. This post is very interesting to me. It has never even crossed my mind that submarines could be used to transport drugs into our country. The two main points that I found the most interesting were how the smugglers make double the money because they take weapons back with them and the fact that they can transport 625 million in drugs in a machine that only costs 2 million to build. They are definitely profiting.

  3. Last semester, I was introduced to this practice in my CJS 338 class. From my recollection, some cartels have enough funds to sink multimillion dollar submarines after each shipment is made. I can see why sinking a $2 million dollar submarine wouldn't phase these cartels if each shipment is bringing in about $625 million. This is absolutely crazy to me because I can't even begin to imagine how much these cartels are really making. No wonder, they always seem to be one step ahead...they have virtually limitless funding.

  4. The drug trade is something truly remarkable. Although it is quite disturbing regarding what they do and how that affects others, they have a system that is so complex and completely intractable. They have an entire system of transporting their drugs, delivering to high end dealers and storage. The intelligence of these officials in the trade game is excessive. They have some fantastic minds involved in the system. If only we had them working for our military or government developing ways to put an end to the trade game. Very cool article/blog.

  5. Its amazing what ends the drug cartels will go to to get drugs into the United States. I can't believe they have the resources to make submarines to try to bring it in to the US. It certainly presents interesting challenges for law enforcement. If they are willing to risk building a 2 million dollar submarine to bring it in, they must be willing to do just about anything.

  6. Sounds a lot like the IED tactics of insurgents in Iraq. When they first started they were low tech with just a battery and a long wire. then we learned to sweep for the wires and the insurgents went to cell phones and such. Then we put jamming systems on our humvees and the insurgents went to pressure plates. Hopefully we don't have to invade columbia or mexico to take care of this drug problem.

  7. What will Drug Cartels think of next? I find it very interesting to know that they are using submarines to funnel their drugs into the United States. Looks like the Coast Guard will be staying busy tracking submarines full of drugs. Drug Cartels probably will come up with something even crazier once their submarine fleets lay at the bottem of the ocean.