A drug-smuggling, submarine-like vessel loaded with 15,000 pounds of cocaine worth about $180 million was intercepted in the western Caribbean, the Coast Guard in Miami announced Monday.
The vessel, a self-propelled semi-submersible, was spotted by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection airplane near the coast of Honduras and interdicted by the Boston-based Coast Guard Cutter Seneca on July 13, officials said.
The crew of the SPSS was detained, but not before the vessel sank. As it sank, some of the contraband was recovered.
Divers with the FBI Laboratory's Technical Dive Team were able to recover the bulk of the cocaine after the SPSS was located using sonar equipment on July 26.
According to the Coast Guard, the vessels are built in the jungles of Colombia and can carry up to 10 metric tons of illicit cargo for distances up to 5,000 miles. A typical SPSS is 100 feet long, has four or five crew members and are designed to rapidly sink at the first sign of law enforcement.
The seized drugs will be turned over to other U.S. law enforcement agencies for disposition and the case is under investigation, the Coast Guard said.