United States officials say drug traffickers are increasingly using submarines in the Caribbean Sea to smuggle drugs into the country.
They said after years of detecting diesel-propelled submarine vessels in the less-trafficked Pacific Ocean, they have seen a dramatic rise in their use in the Caribbean over the last year.
"These vessels are seaworthy enough that I have no doubt in my mind that if they had enough fuel, they could easily sail into a port in the United States," Commander Mark J. Fedor of the US Coast Guard, told reporters here.
Fedor said that, with the rise of these submersibles, he fears that trafficking networks are moving away from so-called fast boats, the high-powered fishing and leisure boats that can carry about a ton of cocaine and are easier to spot, to vessels that can secretly carry many more tons of drugs, which are unloaded in shallow waters or transported to shore by small boats.
task force 600 strong
Fedor said that the Key West, Florida-based Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which comprises the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State and Defence and intelligence agencies and liaison officers from more than a dozen Caribbean and Latin American nations, is constantly analysing information on drug trafficking in the Caribbean Sea.
He said the 600-person task force is in charge of cuing ships, aircraft and counternarcotics units on the ground for interdiction missions.
Rear Admiral Charles D. Michel of the US Coast Guard said that drug interdictions so far this year have already increased more than 50 per cent from a year ago.