Coast Guard cutter makes second big cocaine bust on way to new homeport in Hawaii

A boarding team member from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Midgett inspects contraband discovered within a suspected drug smuggling vessel interdicted in Pacific Ocean, July 26, 2019.


By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: August 17, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — The new Coast Guard national security cutter Midgett, which arrived at its new homeport of Honolulu on Friday, has chalked up a second major drug bust — even before it is officially commissioned into service.

The crew stopped a low-profile vessel July 31 and seized more than 4,600 pounds of cocaine during a boarding in the eastern Pacific, the Coast Guard said.

It was the second at-sea cocaine seizure made by the Midgett’s crew in a week’s time.

The Midgett’s crew seized more than 2,100 pounds of cocaine July 25 from a low-profile boat in the eastern Pacific after departing the Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard in June and following acceptance by the Coast Guard.

The two boardings resulted in a combined recovery of over 6,700 pounds of cocaine, estimated to be worth over $89 million, according to the Coast Guard.

“Low-profile, go-fast vessels are purpose-built by cartels for smuggling large quantities of contraband by riding low in the water to avoid detection,” the Coast Guard Pacific Area said in a release. “By design, they can be quickly sunk through the use of integrated scuttling valves, a dangerous practice that jeopardizes the safety of the suspected smugglers and the Coast Guard boarding teams.”

Nearly 80% of all known illegal narcotics coming into North America are smuggled by international cartels through the eastern Pacific corridor, the Coast Guard said.

“The national security cutter gets you further, faster and delivers more capability once on scene than any other cutter in the history of our service,” Capt. Alan McCabe, the Midgett’s commanding officer, said in the release. “I am incredibly proud of the crew’s efforts who made these two seizures possible, and we are eager to conduct future operations throughout the Pacific.”

The $670 million Midgett will be commissioned in Honolulu on Aug. 24 along with its sister ship, the national security cutter Kimball, which arrived in December.

Even though the 418-foot Midgett hasn’t been commissioned, the Coast Guard had the law enforcement authority to conduct the boardings, said Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Brickey, a spokesman for the Pacific Area.

“This authority is vested in our Coast Guard members, regardless of what ship they are on, which is how Coast Guard teams can conduct boardings from (U.S. Navy) ships or other nations’ ships, such as Canada, for example,” Brickey said.

“The Midgett was able to take this case, and the one on the 25th, because the command and crew went above and beyond the minimal ‘ready for sea’ requirements needed to sail the ship to Honolulu,” Brickey said.

It will be about another 18 months before the Midgett is sent out on operations. In that time the ship will get upgrades that are more easily done in its new homeport than in the shipyard, Brickey said.

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The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Midgett moors at its new homeport at Base Honolulu on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019.

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