U.S. Coast Guard officials arrested four suspected drug smugglers just after they sank a submarine-like vessel off the Pacific coast of El Salvador that was packed with 5.5 tons of cocaine worth $352 million, reports the Houston Chronicle. “This just shows the lengths that smugglers will go” to smuggle drugs, said Michael Friel of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. Rather than a full-fledged submarine, the vessel was a “semi-submersible.” Nearly all of the craft could be hidden underwater.
The seizure was one of a series of recent cases involving underwater vessels. Anti-drug agents have made record seizures from conventional ships, so traffickers are looking for new ways to cover their tracks, said Garrison Courtney of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. In many cases, the vessels are used to bring drugs to and from drop-off points on the coast to “mother” ships on the high seas. Unlike conventional boats, submarines and semi-submersibles move slowly and leave almost no wake, making them difficult to spot by eyesight or radar. In Colombia, which supplies about 90 percent of the world’s cocaine, authorities have seized eight submarines or semi-submersibles in the past decade.