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Posted: 2:08 p.m. Tuesday, July 17, 2012

4 tons of drugs offloaded at Mayport


Navy drug bust 1 photo
Courtesy of USS Nicholas.
Navy drug bust 2 photo
Courtesy of USS Nicholas.
Navy drug bust 3 photo
Drugs aboard the ship.
Navy drug bust 4 photo
Drugs seized.

By Gene Wexler


On Tuesday morning, a Navy frigate delivered hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine and marijuana arrived at Mayport.

The drugs were confiscated by crews aboard the USS Nicholas as part of a counter-drug and crime operation in Central and South America.  They call it "Operation Martillo."

*See the pictures on the left*

Lt. Commander Corey Barker says over the last six months the Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Patrol crews have confiscated a total of 7,500 pounds of cocaine and 320 pounds of marijuana.

They conducted a combination of six disruptions and interdictions during the deployment.

"We are close to taking a billion dollars of drugs off the streets of the United States by stopping them down close to Colombia and Panama," Barker said.

The cocaine that came into Mayport has a wholesale value of $93 million dollars.

"The street value is probably three to four times that," Barker said.

The amount of cocaine seized was enough for 7.2 million doses, each dose approximately the same size as a sugar packet.

Here's how the operation works:  Navy and Customs and Border Protection find the boats they suspect has drugs on it.   Then the Coast Guard's Law Enforcement Detachment Team conducts the tactical boardings of the ships to seize the drugs.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Scott Carr tells our news partner Channel 4 that the Navy ship actually hoists up a Coast Guard flag and switches their tactical control from the Navy to the United States Coast Guard so they can conduct law enforcement.

A helicopter crew from Jacksonville helped in the seizures.  The patrol planes that detected the drug boats are based at Cecil Field.

The Navy says that more than 80 percent of the narcotics entering Central America and largely transiting through Mexico on their way to U.S. markets enter via maritime littoral routes, with the main conveyance being "go-fast" boats.

"By teaming up with regional partner nations  and allied forces to scrutinize the littorals, transnational organized crime networks will be denied those routes., the Navy says.