Independence-Class LCS Offloads $200M in Cocaine in San Diego

USS Gabrielle Giffords intercepts a low-profile smuggling boat in the Eastern Pacific, December 2020 (USN)

Published Feb 2, 2021 1:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Monday, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy crewmembers from the Independence-class LCS USS Gabrielle Giffords offloaded nearly six tons of cocaine at a pier in San Diego. The haul, valued at more than $200 million, was seized in the Eastern Pacific as part of the long-running fight against drug trafficking in the transit zones off Central America.  

Consistent with protocol, Gabrielle Giffords' interdictions were all performed by an embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET). Monday's offload also included the results of three Coast Guard cutters' efforts.

“When you are covering a drug-smuggling transit zone the size of the continental United States, every ship makes a huge difference,” said Lt. Jonathan Dietrich (USCG). “The seamless integration between our Law Enforcement Detachment and the crew of the USS Gabrielle Giffords was a major reason why we were successful in interdicting such a large amount of drugs and prevent them from reaching our streets.”

Images courtesy USCG

USS Gabrielle Giffords and LEDET 407 were responsible for most of the haul, seizing 10,500 pounds of cocaine and 4,000 pounds of marijuana in five intercepts; the cutter Seneca carried out one intercept and seized 350 pounds of cocaine; the cutter Legare seized 50 pounds of cocaine and 3,400 pounds of marijuana; and the cutter Spencer seized about 400 pounds of cocaine and 1,500 pounds of marijuana. 

"The impressive results of the USS Gabrielle Giffords deployment and drug offload represent more than just a local victory of keeping drugs off our streets," said Rear Admiral Brian Penoyer (USCG), the commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. "The Coast Guard and the Navy have worked together for years to keep our waters and shores safe from a number of maritime threats, and we are honored to continue that tradition as we look toward the future."

The ceremony also marked a homecoming for the USS Gabrielle Giffords, which has been deployed to 7th Fleet and 4th Fleet for the past 17 months. 

“I am incredibly proud of the Gabrielle Giffords team and all they have accomplished”, said Cmdr. Rion Martin, the vessel's commanding officer. “This dynamic team of Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and Marines demonstrated sustained superior performance with physical, mental and emotional toughness while executing a range of maritime operations.”

For years, U.S. Southern Command has advocated for the deployment of LCS vessels like the Gabrielle Giffords to the drug-running transit zones of the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. Historically, the actionable intelligence on smuggling boats has exceeded the number of cutters available to conduct interdictions, limiting the potential of the campaign. With their cutter-like construction, speed and armament, combined with their relatively low levels of Navy operational tasking, the two LCS classes have attracted interest as an extra law enforcement and maritime security platform in the 4th Fleet area of responsibility.