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).
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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. <http://www.insideedition.com/news/6681/drug-cartels-use-homemade-subs-to-smuggle-drugs.aspx>.
Kaufer, Tobias. "Colombia Drug Cartel's New Vehicle For Shipping Cocaine:
Submarines." Worldcrunch. 19 July 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2012. <http://worldcrunch.com/colombia-drug-cartel-s-new-vehicle-shipping-cocaine-submarines/3475>.