The largest Colombian “narco sub” ever recorded — some 30 meters (98 feet) long and 3 meters wide — has been intercepted and decommissioned in the Pacific, with 3 tons of cocaine found on board, the country’s navy reported Friday.
The semi-submersible vessel was stopped Tuesday on its way to Central America, one of the most common routes for drug smuggling to the United States, the world’s largest consumer of Colombian cocaine.
The navy posted video of officers boarding the vessel and unloading packages.
The detained crew — ages 45, 54 and 63 — are all Colombians and claimed to have been “forced by a drug trafficking organization” to take the sub to Central America, the navy said in a statement.
In three decades, the Colombian navy has seized 228 such drug-laden semi-submersibles, which are never fully underwater but used by traffickers to elude detection by coast guard and other authorities. Some were bound for the United States, while others were intercepted in the Atlantic, headed for Europe.
Officials said Friday that this was the fourth such vessel interercepted this year.
In March, officials seized a narco sub carrying two dead bodies and a huge haul of drugs in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Colombia. About a week later, a semi-submersible vessel carrying nearly 1,000 packages of cocaine was intercepted in the same region.
This latest vessel was the largest Colombian narco sub decommissioned since records began in 1993. The seizure represented a blow of some $103 million to the drug trade, the navy said.
In Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer, laws punish the use, construction, marketing, possession or transportation of a semi-submersible by up to 14 years in prison.
In 2021, cultivation of the coca plant, from which cocaine is extracted, stretched over 204,000 hectares (505,000 acres), according to the United Nations. This was the highest figure since monitoring began 21 years earlier, and was accompanied by a rise in cocaine production from 1,010 tons in 2020 to 1,400 tons.
Last week’s seizure comes about a week after a Colombian man dubbed the “Prince of Semi-Submersibles” was sentenced to over 20 years in U.S. federal prison for smuggling nearly 30,000 pounds of cocaine into the United States. Oscar Adriano Quintero Rengifo, 35, allegedly operated a fleet of narco subs to transport drugs from South America to Central America that were ultimately destined for the United States.