The U.S. Coast Guard has released dramatic footage that showed guardsmen intercepting a narco semi-submersible vessel in international waters hundreds of miles out into the East Pacific Ocean.
The 45-foot long, semi-submersible vessel was traveling approximately 10 miles per hour when it was spotted by marine patrol aircraft on June 18, U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Stephen Brickey told ABC News.
The aircraft notified the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter vessel, the Munro, about the sub’s location, at which point a helicopter was dispatched.
"It's really difficult to detect, and so, the aircraft that are out there searching for it do a wonderful job,” Munro’s commanding officer, U.S. Coast Guard Captain Jim Estramonte, told ABC News.
The helicopter remained beyond the submersible’s line of sight as it directed two smaller boats to its location.
The smaller vessels were filled with guardsmen who specialize in boarding vessels in high-risk situations out on the open ocean.
One of the crew members repeatedly shouted at the submersible to stop as they pulled up alongside it, the video showed.
“That’s gonna be hard to get on,” he then yelled to his fellow crew members.
One of the boats swept in right next to the moving target, and two guardsmen jumped onto the top of the submersible, the video showed.
Waves broke across the top of the vessel, spraying the crew members as they tried to maintain their foothold.
One of the guardsmen reached the hatch and began banging on it, and the clip ended just as the hatch opened.
The Coast Guard apprehended five smugglers inside the vessel, and seized approximately 17,000 pounds of cocaine worth about $232 million, Commander Brickey told ABC News.
"This is as satisfying as it gets. It's the largest [bust] in the Coast Guard since 2015," Capt. Estramonte said. "The crew is ecstatic.”
“Everyone plays a part in it, not just the folks on deck doing the boarding,” the captain added. “We ran at our highest speed to get there all day. It was an all-hands-on-deck evolution, and the crew worked their tails off to get there."
Commander Brickey said that drug cartels have been building and deploying more semi-submersible vessels in the past four years, but that they are still fairly rare, CNN reported.
Not only are they expensive to construct, but cartels have to build them deep in the jungle so they don’t get caught.
The vessels, which are painted blue, are nearly impossible to spot once they are in the water.
"They blend in," the commander said. "Most of the vessel is underwater, so it's hard to pick out…They match the water."
The vessels can also be intentionally sunk by smugglers within minutes in order to destroy evidence, and the smugglers know that the Coast Guard will work to rescue them, CNN reported.
"It happens probably every year or two [we find a submersible]," Capt. Estramonte told ABC News. "We happened to have [multiple] cases in a couple weeks when we were out there on patrol. But it's a pretty rare occurrence, and they do hold a large quantity of cocaine on board as well."
Commander Brickey said that the Coast Guard intercepts approximately 11 percent of the trafficking vessels that travel through the East Pacific Ocean, CNN reported.
That area is approximately the size of the entire United States, but the fleet tasked with patrolling the immense area is comparatively small.
It’s like patrolling the entire country with the equivalent of two patrol vehicles, Commander Brickey explained.
More than 933 pounds of marijuana and 39,000 pounds of cocaine have been seized by the Coast Guard since May, according to a media advisory.
The drugs are estimated to be worth $569 million.
You can watch footage of the Coast Guard overtaking the narco semi-submersible in the video below: