Record cocaine seizure unloaded near Oakland port
The haul from the largest high-seas drug busts in history was unloaded Monday by U.S. Coast Guard officers at the West Coast command center near the Port of Oakland.
Under heavy guard, bales of cocaine totaling nearly 40,000 pounds were unloaded from the armed USGS cutter Sherman. The unloaded haul, with a retail value of $600 million, included 38,000 pounds of cocaine seized by the crew of the Sherman from a Panamanian cargo ship about 20 miles off a Panamanian island on March 17. The largest previous cocaine seizure by the Coast Guard was 30,109 pounds from a state-less vessel in 2004. The haul unloaded Monday also included cocaine from two smaller seizures.
While on a 101-day patrol in the Pacific, an intelligence tip led the crew of the San Diego-based Sherman to the cargo vessel Gatun, which was heading from Panama to Mexico in the Pacific Ocean. The Gatun's 14 crew members, comprised of Panamanians and Mexicans, acted nervously when approached by the Sherman boarding party, but were not armed and offered no resistance. An inspection of the vessel turned up the cocaine bales in two containers among the ship's normal cargo.
The Panamanians were handed over to Panama while the Mexicans were taken into U.S. custody, said Brock Eckel, one of the officers from the Sherman who discovered the illegal drugs. The drugs are to be transferred to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for eventual incineration.