Photos: Square-Rigger Catches Drug Smugglers off Ecuador

Guayas with a full head of sail (Armada del Ecuador)

Published Oct 24, 2021 4:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Friday, the Ecuadorian Navy tall ship Guayas provided a rare, real-world educational experience to new cadets on an international training cruise. In what may be the first occurrence of its kind since the end of the days of sail, the Guayas intercepted and detained a low-profile smuggling boat on the high seas, capturing four suspects. 

At a position between the Colombian and Ecuadorian EEZs, the Guayas encountered and stopped a low-profile vessel equipped with three outboard engines. Improvised, handmade low-profile vessels are frequently used by transnational criminal organizations to transport cocaine in the Eastern Pacific; they have a multi-ton carrying capacity and a minimal radar cross-section. 

The suspects and the LPV are being transferred to the mainland to be handed over to the authorities for processing. 

Photos courtesy Armada del Ecuador

The Guayas is a 1976-built training ship homeported in Guayaquil. She is a three-masted barque with a capacity of up to 120 crew, 80 cadets and 35 officers, and she has a single 700-horsepower diesel engine for maneuvering. In her 40-plus-year career she has ranged far afield, from China to New York to Vladivostok; in 2016, she made a 35,000 nm round-the-world training cruise, her longest yet.

On September 10, Guayas set sail from Guayaquil on a 70-day voyage to Peru, Panama and El Salvador with 147 crewmembers on board, including a contingent of fourth-year midshipmen. It is Guayas' first voyage since the COVID-19 outbreak began early last year: all 2020 training cruises were suspended due to the pandemic.