WILLEMSTAD, Curaçao – U.S. and Dutch navy forces seized 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) of cocaine in the Caribbean Sea on March 22, authorities from both countries said.
The bust was made under Operation Martillo, a joint effort of Western Hemisphere and European countries to curtail illicit trafficking routes on both coasts of the Central American isthmus.
While on patrol in the Caribbean Sea, a Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard maritime patrol aircraft spotted a go-fast vessel with four crewmembers and cargo on deck.
After receiving an alert from their Dutch counterparts, personnel onboard an SH-60B chopper from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 60, embedded on the Elrod, intercepted the vessel and spotted its crew throwing bales overboard.
The USS Elrod is on a scheduled port visit to Curaçao, where a change of command of the U.S. Navy frigate will take place.
A U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment aboard the USS Elrod took the go-fast vessel’s four-man crew into custody after tests proved the thrown cargo, retrieved by Dutch naval forces, tested positive for cocaine.
“A good deal of credit for this interdiction goes to the Dutch navy and their dedicated air support,” said Cmdr. John Callaway, Elrod commanding officer. “They played a vital role in achieving the Operation Martillo objective to intercept drugs smuggled into the U.S.”
Operation Martillo intends to disrupt organized crime operations by limiting their ability to use Central America and the Caribbean as a transit zone of illicit goods.
Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States are participating in the operation, which started in the middle of January.
For Operation Martillo, the U.S. Navy has deployed Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates USS Ingraham, USS Elrod, USS McClusky, and USS Nicholas, which are conducting Combating Transnational Organized Crime operations, while Patrol Squadron 1 is providing aerial patrol support while forward-deployed to El Salvador.
The USS Elrod is a 437-foot Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate home-ported in Norfolk, Va. The ship was commissioned on Sept. 21, 1985.