Coast Guard unloads $312M worth of cocaine seized at sea

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SAN DIEGO -- The U.S. Coast Guard brought about 18,000 pounds of cocaine to port in San Diego Wednesday when they returned from a series of drug busts at sea.

Five different cutter crews were responsible for the seizures, which took place in a portion of the Eastern Pacific Ocean frequently used as a drug smuggling corridor.

Military officials, who shared videos of the busts, said smugglers are usually first spotted by a joint military-law enforcement task force based in Key West, Florida.

When cutters finally confront the smuggling vessels, it often results in dramatic arrests, with Coast Guard boats racing alongside the smugglers, ordering them to stop and hopping aboard to make arrests.

Drug mules use small boats but also frequently travel in semi-submersible vessels referred to as "narco subs." In July, authorities released video of a Coast Guard member leaping onto one of the subs while it was still moving, pounding on the hatch and arresting smugglers in a bust that yielded 16,000 pounds of cocaine.

The cocaine offloaded at the Port of San Diego in Barrio Logan Wednesday was worth an estimated $312 million, officials said. It was seized in operations held between mid-October and December.

Crews with the Coast Guard Cutters Northland, James, Harriet Lane, Thetis and Bertholf were credited with the busts. Officials held a news conference after the offloading to praise the crews and share details about the operations:

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