Operation Caribbean Venture, a joint law-enforcement effort spearheaded by the Commander Netherlands Forces in the Caribbean, landed a big fish last month.
The Royal Navy Zeelander, a Dutch offshore patrol vessel, interdicted a U.S.-flagged cargo freighter about 150 nm from Los Cayes, Haiti, on the morning of May 13th. The vessel, Caribbean Soul, was found to be falsely flagged with an expired registration, prompting the U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) crew aboard the Zeelander to board and search the freighter.
Aboard, the LEDET crew discovered 247 bails, nearly 13,000 lb., of marijuana stashed in the Caribbean Soul's hull. The crew of 12 smugglers were detained aboard the Soul, while the Zeelander escorted the freighter to the Port of Ponce, Puerto Rico.
“Our strong international partnerships and continued collaboration with the Dutch Navy and regional law enforcement partners continue to yield very positive results in the interdiction of major drug shipments at sea as well as in bringing those responsible to justice,” said Capt. Robert Warren, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commanding officer.
In total, officials estimate the shipment to have a street value over $13 million. The smugglers, contraband, and boat were all turned over to the DEA, who will take over the investigation.
"Interceptions like these show us that it is very important for us partners to keep working together and sharing information,” said Commodore Hans Lodder, Royal Dutch Navy and JIATF-South Commander of Task Group 4.4.