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Smugglers Run Aground While Trying to Flee Royal Navy

Smuggling boat aground on a beach in USVI at night
Image courtesy Royal Navy

Published Mar 4, 2024 3:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Royal Navy warship has seized narcotics worth $370 million in a series of busts in the Caribbean, with help from the U.S. Coast Guard. 

In the first intercept, HMS Trent spotted a smuggling speedboat to the south of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the ship gave chase. The smugglers tried to flee towards land, and they threw 20 bales of their illicit cargo over the side. The boat ultimately ran aground, and the suspects were detained by officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Between the recovery of bales in the water and the cargo still on board the grounded boat, the team captured 94 bales of drugs. This 2,800-kilo haul was valued at $280 million, according to British officials. 

Image courtesy of the Royal Navy

Three weeks earlier, Trent's crew intercepted a group of smugglers in a nighttime pursuit. The four suspects tried to throw their illegal cargo over the side, but they were caught in the act by an embarked Coast Guard boarding team. Trent's coxswains pushed their boats "to the limits" to run down the smuggling vessel and enable the boarding. Aided by daybreak, Trent's crew searched nearby waters and recovered 29 bales of cocaine. The 880-kilo haul was worth another $90 million. 

“The size of this bust is rarely seen in the region, and it is one of the largest single seizures in recent memory," said the officer in charge of the Coast Guard boarding team (unnamed for operational reasons). “Being able to recover such a large cargo of contraband over a 24-mile search area is unheard of.”