USCGC Bertholf Returns With $312 Million Worth Of Seized Cocaine

December 27, 2019 1:05 PM
Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) boarding teams interdict a low-profile go-fast vessel while patrolling international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, seizing more than 3,100 pounds of suspected cocaine, Nov. 4, 2019. Purpose-built vessels like this are designed to smuggle large amounts of contraband while evading detection by law enforcement personnel due to their camouflaged appearance and low profile. U.S. Coast Guard photo

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL-750) finished 2019 by offloading in San Diego more than 18,000 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $312 million.

Bertholf finished an 82-day counter-narcotics deployment in the Eastern Pacific, which with four other Coast Guard cutters, conducted seven drug interdictions off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America, according to the Coast Guard.

The interdictions occurred between mid-October and early December. Bertholf’s crew conducted three of the interdictions, seizing 5,851 pounds of cocaine with an estimated value of more than $100 million.

Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) crew members use a crane and cargo net to transfer bales of contraband from Bertholf’s 35-foot Long-Range Interceptor boat to the cutter following an at-sea interdiction of a low-profile go-fast vessel, Nov. 4, 2019. Bertholf’s boarding teams seized more than 3,100 pounds of suspected cocaine during the interdiction. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Paul Krug.

“This offload demonstrates another successful example of the ‘Cycle of Justice,’ said a statement from Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, the Coast Guard Pacific Area commander. “This cycle begins with intelligence-driven detection and monitoring of illicit activities that then cue the interdiction and apprehension of smugglers and contraband, and ultimately leads to criminal prosecution. This ‘Cycle of Justice’ disrupts a ‘Cycle of Crime,’ which left unchecked, fuels violence and instability that corrodes our Hemisphere’s social and economic fabric, and directly contributes to historically high drug-related deaths in neighborhoods across North America.”

Bertholf spent nearly nine-months of 2019 deployed. Earlier in the year, Bertholf sailed with the Navy’s U.S. 7th Fleet and other foreign partner navies to help enforce U.S. Security Council resolutions against North Korea and to enforce international maritime rules in the East China Sea.

In March, Bertholf joined Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) on a transit of the Taiwan Strait.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Brendan Hoban and Ens. Cristina Sandstedt, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) crewmembers, monitor vessel traffic in Hong Kong Harbor from the bridge wing as the cutter navigates toward Hong Kong, April 15, 2019. US Coast Guard photo.

Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz mentioned Bertholf’s mission to the Western Pacific Ocean and its operation with U.S. 7th Fleet forces during his annual “State of the Coast Guard” speech.

“This has been a challenging and exciting year for Bertholf,” said a statement from Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Laubenheimer, Bertholf’s operations officer. “We started 2019 patrolling the East China and Yellow Seas while conducting United Nations sanctions enforcement, and we finish the year in the Eastern Pacific. Many late nights, long pursuits, and a lot of hard work went into making this a successful counter-drug patrol. We’re proud to operate alongside the other cutters, patrol aircraft and partner nation assets patrolling the Eastern Pacific to stem the flow of illegal drugs into our country. And of course, we’re excited to be coming home for Christmas and are looking forward to some time with family.”

Ben Werner

Ben Werner

Ben Werner is a staff writer for USNI News. He has worked as a freelance writer in Busan, South Korea, and as a staff writer covering education and publicly traded companies for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Ga., and Baltimore Business Journal. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from New York University.

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