Narco Submarines

As the drug war ensues and threatens borders worldwide, traffickers must turn to new and innovative methods to deliver their product to their buyers.

The rise of narco submarines (submarines which are used for the sole purpose of trafficking drugs) has been a recent development.

As law enforcement began to focus on putting pressure on drug trafficking, traffickers had to adapt to the new measures being taken to stop drugs from crossing borders.

A homemade submersible in a rural area of Timbiqui, department of Cauca, Colombia, on February 14, 2011. (Luis Robayo, AFP / Getty Images)

About 120 narco submarines are built each year by drug traffickers. At around $2 million a pop and three months to a year to manufacture, these submarines are not cheap or easy to get your hands on. However, though the amount to build one may be pretty pricey, the quantity each submarine can carry is quite large. Generally speaking, one submarine can hold up to 12 tons of cocaine, $4 million worth of drugs, in a single trip. Obviously well worth the investment even after factoring in fuel and the four man crew (paid $40,000 each) the submarine requires each trip.

United States law enforcement officials estimate that 32% of cocaine smuggled into the United States from Latin America is brought across borders via underwater submarines.

First seen in the early 1990s, narco submarines are quickly becoming the transportation of choice for those who can afford it. They are primarily used by drug trafficking kingpins such as recently arrested Columbian kingpin Javier Antonio Calle Serna who was well known for building and using approximately 50 foot fiberglass vessels to smuggle drugs (The Daily Beast, May 2012).

Submarines are extremely difficult to capture. Most of the submarines are built in the jungle as traffickers take advantage of the dense foliage and the fact that these areas are only accessible by water. In addition the subs are painted dark blue to blend in with water, leave little wake behind them, and have an extremely small radar signature; not an easy craft to catch.

The DEA claims roughly 10% of narco submarines from Latin America are caught, though the true number may be lower since crews will sink the craft if they think they may have been discovered (The Daily Beast, May 2012).

The United States and Columbia are desperately trying to keep up with traffickers by passing laws which criminalize the financing, construction, storage, transport, and use of semi-submersible submarines. However, traffickers seem to always be one step ahead.

There are reports of some traffickers who have built full submarines that are capable of diving to a depth of 20 meters (The Daily Beast, May 2012). Traffickers are adept at rapidly changing their approach and law enforcement will have to ensure they keep up with the changes (though for the past few decades this hasn’t been possible). With so many funds and resources at their fingertips, drug traffickers are able to develop new strategies and technology to avoid law enforcements ever-encroaching eye.

What they will think of next, we can only guess.

 

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