US drug enforcement authorities ask for increased vigilance among shipping interests to stem drug smuggling
Captain Robert W. Warren of United States Coast Guard has asked for increased vigilance and support from the Caribbean region's maritime interests to curb the marine drug transhipment trade.
Captain Warren was a special guest presenter at the 14th Caribbean Shipping Executives Conference held in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. As commander of the Coast Guard's Sector San Juan, which encompasses the Eastern Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, he leads approximately 650 active duty, reserve and civilian men and women to conduct all Coast Guard missions.
During his presentation on the state of the drugs transhipment trade in his area of command, Captain Warren cited the large amount of drugs that make their way through the region, pointing to the assistance that can be provided by shipping interests in changing this scenario.
"You are our first line of defence," Captain Warren told shipping executives attending the conference.
economics of trade
"We all need to come together as one team to fight this problem. It's not just a big government approach. We recognise that to be successful, there is a demand side. There is a supply side, and there are underlying economic and social conditions that either encourage or discourage this type of activity. So partnerships with industry are important," he said.
He noted that the biggest sources of drug intelligence come from those in the regional shipping industry, who have the strategic benefit of watching sea-faring vessels and containers being loaded and unloaded.
"Right now in the Dominican Republic, a lot of our intelligence comes from people on the beach who see boats being loaded and make a phone call. And that really where our success is going to be when we have that partnership and cooperation with the public and the industry," said Warren.
He commended the efforts of regional shipping interests, and encouraged continued efforts to assist the drug-enforcement authorities in ending the drug transhipment trade in the region.
As recently as March 18, 2015, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, working jointly with the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force partners, seized 2,425 pounds of cocaine and arrested three individuals for drug trafficking following an at-sea interdiction south of the island of Vieques. The cocaine had an estimated street value of US$30 million.