two tons of cocaine worth $100 million.
It isn't a one-off event anymore: drug smuggling has been driven beneath the waves as part of its constant evolution.
Over the weekend, the Colombian Navy seized South America's second narco submarine with the help of intelligence supplied by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The nearly 100-foot-long, fiberglass vessel sat at the end of a man-made canal in the jungles of Timbiqui in southwestern Colombia, according to The Houston Chronicle. As of yesterday, the vessel was under guard as bad weather delayed the Colombian Navy from towing it out of its watery haunt.
This is the second discovery of a narco sub within the last year. In July, the DEA supplied intelligence to the Ecudorian authorities that led to the seizure of another narco-sub deep in the jungle. The Chronicle notes that it is not known whether the same organization built both vessels.
Colombian Navy officials said the submarine could probably accomodate four smugglers and carry about 8 tons of cocaine up north to Mexico without surfacing. According to media reports, the vessel was a model of sophistication, including navigational equipment, built-in bunk beds, and two remote cameras attached to its conning tower. The Colombian Navy estimates the narco sub cost about $2 million to build, according to RTT News.
Jay Bergman, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for the Andean region, told The Houston Chronicle that the discovery confirms narco subs are the next evolution in drug smuggling. It's all part of the dance that drug cartels and law enforcement play: when speed boats or fishing trawlers don't cut it anymore, drug smugglers opt for less detectable smuggling conveyances, like remora-like containers attached to ships and semi-submersibles. Now it seems at least one drug-smuggling organization believes it's time to dive far beneath the ocean's surface to avoid detection.
The narco submarine's builders, however, haven't perfected the design just yet. While the vessel could fully submerge, it would have been teethered to the surface by a nearly 30-foot-long snorkel to deliver air to its engine.
"If somebody is going in one of these things, I'm like, 'What are they thinking?' “ Bergman told the Chronicle. "You can go down, but can't guarantee you can come back up."