Mayport, Florida — The guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas delivered more than 4 tons of cocaine and marijuana to Naval Station Mayport, Florida, July 17, after seizing it in drug interdictions conducted in support of Operation Martillo.
Crew members unloaded approximately 3,408 kilograms (7,500 pounds) of cocaine and 109 kilograms (239 pounds) of marijuana, with an estimated wholesale value of more than $93 million. The cocaine was enough for 7.2 million doses, each the size of a sugar packet.
The USS Nicholas returned to port after a 175-day deployment supporting anti-drug-trafficking operations aimed at disrupting transnational organized crime and keeping drugs off the streets.
"With the help of some partners in the region we accomplished what we set out to do: disrupt the drug trade," said Commander Stephen Fuller, USS Nicholas commanding officer. "Interdictions are challenging, but with the help of other naval units, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the partner-nation navies, we executed a successful deployment."
The Nicholas, with an embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment, conducted a combination of six disruptions and interdictions while in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters of South and Central America.
Also during the deployment, Nicholas transited the Panama Canal twice, conducted passing exercises and an officer exchange with the Colombian Navy, carried out four under-way replenishments with a Chilean oiler, and celebrated the anniversary of the War of 1812.
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels, U.S. military aircraft and patrol aircraft from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, and allied and partner-nation forces assist with patrolling coastal regions from Colombia to Mexico to detect illicit traffic and support interdiction efforts by partner nations and U.S. agencies.
Patrol airplanes operating from aircraft carriers, El Salvador, Florida and Texas use sophisticated sensors to detect suspicious vessels and coordinate interdictions by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and partner nations patrolling the region.
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.
Operation Martillo (Spanish for 'hammer') is a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner-nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. It is a component of the U.S. government's coordinated strategy to combat transnational organized crime and the U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative.