Cutter Hamilton returns to Charleston after massive drug bust in the Eastern Pacific Ocean

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton returned to its home port in Charleston following an 80-day patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Before returning home, the crew offloaded more than $320 million worth of cocaine and marijuana at Port Everglades on Friday.

The drugs were seized after deploying in late January to serve at the first National Security Cutter to participate in a Navy Composite Training Unit Exercise along with the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Cutter Hamilton for three weeks integrated with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and ships and aircraft of Carrier Strike Group Ten to test the strike group’s ability to carry out sustained combat operations at sea.

Captain Timothy Cronin, Hamilton’s commanding officer, said the event highlighted the unique capabilities of the Coast Guard’s 418-foot National Security Cutter.

“Our success in this critical exercise demonstrated how the Coast Guard can seamlessly integrate with joint forces around the globe to advance our national security strategy,” he said.

During the operation, Hamilton’s crew seized three drug-laden vessels and apprehended eight suspected traffickers, according to Coast Guard officials. They said two of the vessels were semi-submersibles.

The two suspected smugglers purposely scuttled their vessel in an alleged attempt to prevent Hamilton’s crew from locating any contraband. Still, Hamilton’s law enforcement team detained the suspects and turned them over to the Drug Enforcement Agency for potential prosecution.

Hamilton also assisted in the removal of another seven tons of cocaine and 1,400 pounds of marijuana seized from a heavily trafficked transit zone by Coast Guard Cutters Legare, Vigilant, Tampa, Tahoma, Steadfast, Mohawk, Navy vessel USS Tornado, and the Canadian vessel HMCS Nanaimo.

“This is about more than piles of drugs never reaching our city streets,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Tetzlaff, an operations specialist. “By keeping this threat far from our shores, we make for a safer and more secure United States.”

The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton is one of two 418-foot National Security Cutters homeported in Charleston.

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