Coast Guard Helps Thwart Drug Smuggling Effort Off Galveston Coast

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Any maritime lawyer can tell you that accidents and crimes on the high seas take place nearly every day across the world. While some incidents take place on smaller vessels, crimes and accidents aren’t limited to low-key boats. Even major cruise lines can be a breeding grounds for theft, assault, sexual crimes, and even drug smuggling. Recently, drugs were the topic of an investigation that the Coast Guard was able to assist in. Residents in Texas were able to rest a little easier this Christmas, after Coast Guard authorities and federal agents thwarted a drug smuggling ring off the coast of Galveston.

The Coast Guard and federal authorities found and confiscated over 85 pounds of cocaine from a ship off the Galveston coast. According to the Coast Guard, the crew of the 900-foot oil tanker Godavari Spirit notified Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston that they had found a suspicious package hidden on their ship and suspected it contained narcotics.

It is not uncommon for drug smugglers to hide their narcotics onboard vessels entering the United States. While the Port of Miami was once the main port of entry for drugs from other countries including Columbia, increased security and awareness in the city has led smugglers to change their routes and attempt to bring their drugs into the country through other ports, Galveston being one of them.

Many times, the smugglers are not even on the vessels, and merely ship their packages in discrete containers or within other packages so they blend in. However, vessels are examined for criminal activity and unauthorized package transportation frequently and many of these drug transactions are often unmasked. Yet, there are times in which the drugs slip away unnoticed and make their way onto American soil after lack of proper shipboard investigations fail to find the narcotics. There are also instances in which ship crewmembers are paid to keep quiet about the drugs or times in which the smugglers pose as crewmembers – or are actual workers – on the vessels. It can be difficult to uncover these types of schemes, but with a clever and thorough investigation team, these crimes can be revealed and stopped before escalating and before anyone gets hurt.

Because of the joint effort between the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration, this latest drug ring was stopped in the nick of time. The team sailed out roughly 70 miles from the Galveston shore on Monday aboard a Coast Guard cutter and boarded the oil tanker to search for the cocaine. After a thorough investigation, the Coast Guard explained a team was able to locate and seize the narcotics. A total of 31 packages of cocaine, valued at an estimated $1,139,000, were confiscated.

It is unclear whether anyone was apprehended in connection to the smuggling crime. Those found participating in smuggling activity face federal prosecution and several years in prison.