PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Seneca returned to its homeport in Portsmouth after a 57-day patrol conducting counter-drug and humanitarian assistance operations in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, November 20.
The USCGC Seneca crew deployed with an embarked MH-65 Dolphin Short-Range Recovery (SRR) helicopter from Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) in Jacksonville, Florida. The embarked Dolphin provided the cutter with aerial use of force capabilities to supplement onboard law enforcement teams.
Upon their arrival in the Pacific, Seneca crewmembers conducted joint maritime operations with the Colombian Naval vessel A.R.C. Punta Ardita. The joint operation focused on interoperability, communications, and counter-narcotics efforts.
Surface and air crews seized more than 2,750 kilograms of cocaine and 1,235 pounds of marijuana, for an estimated street value of over $124 million. Three vessels were interdicted and a fourth disrupted through joint efforts with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Navy. These efforts resulted in the detainment of nine suspected narcotics traffickers.
“I continue to be impressed with what the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Seneca can accomplish,” said Cmdr. Matthew Rooney, commanding officer of the Seneca. “Operating in a pandemic environment is a challenge and the crew rose to it. We accomplished a lot in a short time. Counter-narcotics interdictions, international cooperation, hurricane assistance, and refueling at sea. This patrol encompassed many of our core missions and improved our proficiency. The crew can return home with their head held high with pride.”
Additionally, Seneca crewmembers completed three underway replenishments with the Chilean Navy Oiler Almirante Montt. The UNREP process brings two ships in close proximity to each other while at sea to transfer fuel and supplies. The Almirante Montt crew provided logistical services in a COVID-19 free and contactless environment, extending Seneca’s time on patrol.
After transiting from the Eastern Pacific to the Caribbean, the Seneca crew was tasked to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster response in the wake of Hurricane Eta on the Mosquito Coast of Honduras. The embarked helicopter crew also assisted in conducting multiple missions, which included medical evacuation, critical infrastructure reconnaissance, and identifying stranded populations and individuals in need.
On April 1, U.S. Southern Command began enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere to disrupt the flow of drugs in support of Presidential National Security Objectives. Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security cooperated in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, play a role in counter-drug operations.
The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions for these three interdictions by United States Attorney’s Offices from the Middle District of Florida and the Southern District of Florida. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District, headquartered in Alameda. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Seneca is a 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Portsmouth and routinely deploys in support of counter-drug, migrant interdiction, fisheries, search and rescue, and homeland security missions.