News Release Article from  National Defence and the Canadian Forces

HMCS St. John's Supports Counter-narcotic Operation

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RCN NR12.002 - January 14, 2012

HALIFAX, N.S. – Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) St. John’s helped recover a drug cargo from a scuttled self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessel while deployed on Operation CARIBBE in the international waters of the Caribbean Basin from October 3 to November 14, 2011.

"Canada is committed to working alongside our military allies and bringing our combined efforts to bear against those who would smuggle illicit drugs into North America," said The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. "Our participation in joint operations such as Op CARIBBE demonstrate our Government's resolve to rid our communities of this threat to public safety."

The recovery effort included the deployment of the FBI laboratory’s technical dive team, based in Quantico, VA., which conducted dive operations on the scuttled SPSS from United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Cypress.  More than 6, 700 kg of cocaine was recovered from the vessel.  The drugs, destined for distribution in North America, had an estimated street value of US$180 million.

Throughout the recovery operation, St. John’sprovided medical evacuation (MEDEVACs) support to the technical dive team while they conducted the nine-day operation.  The ship was called upon to assist a sailor from USCGC Cypress who required immediate MEDEVAC by the CH-124 Sea King helicopter to a hospital in the region.

“I am very proud of the close relationship our sailors and air crews have developed and maintain with our US Navy and US Coast Guard counterparts in keeping dangerous drugs off North American streets,” said Lieutenant-General Walt Semianiw, Commander Canada Command. “At sea and in the air, their skills and professionalism are highly valued and serve to warn illegal drug traffickers that their activities are under constant surveillance by allied forces.”

Operation CARIBBE is Canada’s contribution to an ongoing U.S.-led, multi-national effort to interdict drug trafficking in the international waters of the Caribbean Basin and eastern Pacific Ocean.  HMCS St. John’s provided surveillance support to help law enforcement authorities locate and interdict possible drug traffickers.

As part of the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF(S)) team, St. John’s worked alongside partner nations France, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States and also embarked a United States Coast Guard (USCG) law enforcement detachment (LEDET), a team of experts in maritime law enforcement and counter-narcotic operations. 

“HMCS St. John’s easily integrated into the JIATF(S) team,” said Commander Jamie Clarke, Commanding Officer of HMCS St. John’s.  “We made meaningful contributions to this operation, while working with several different nations and their government agencies to keep illicit drugs of North American streets.”

During St. John’s deployment, the US Coast Guard made 38 arrests, and seized a total of 10,902 kg of cocaine and 1144 kg of marijuana, equating to more than US$223 million.     

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