Last week, Colombian forces discovered an exceptionally large narco-submarine in the jungles of Buenaventura state, on Colombia’s Pacific coast.
The vessel, found on a tributary of the Naya River in the isolated village of Puerto Merizalde, measured fully 100 feet in length with a beam of 10 feet. By comparison, the transatlantic narcosub seized in Spain last year measured only 65 feet in length. The new discovery’s 10:1 length-to-beam ratio is relatively slender for a vessel in this size range.
Colombian forces estimated that the boat could carry as much as eight tonnes of cocaine (an amount worth about $200 million wholesale) on a northbound journey in the Eastern Pacific. It may not have been the only vessel of the type built at that site: Colombian Army forces and investigators found machinery, diesel engines, generators, batteries and a significant amount of diesel fuel as well.
So-called narco-subs are not fully submersible:
They typically have a miniature “pilot house” on deck, along with an air intake and exhaust pipe for their engine, and they are built with very low freeboard. Some are designed and laden to operate with their decks awash, earning them the alternative moniker of “self-propelled semi-submersible.” Due to their improvised construction and unknown stability characteristics, the U.S. Coast Guard treats them as hazardous craft during interdiction and boarding.
Law enforcement pressure has increased in the busy drug trafficking zones of the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean in recent years, and the U.S.-led anti-trafficking task force responsible for the effort has reported a rising number of semi-submersible sightings as smugglers adapt to this new reality.
Some also see the inventive trend as a potential model for military autonomous vessel design: the majority of these small, low-cost, low-observable, attritable vessels get through and deliver their cargoes, even in a high-surveillance environment.
Giant Narco Submarine Discovery Reminds Us Of The Greatest Ever:
A narco submarine recently discovered in the Colombian jungle is the largest in recent years, and in design terms, it’s probably the ultimate threat facing the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard’s Enhanced Counter-Narcotics Operations. It represents a scaling-up of the current design trends and balances simplicity and cost effectiveness with survivability. It is likely to be more stealthy, and thus harder to interdict, than most others.
Yet there was one found in 2000 that was even more impressive in scale and sophistication.
Law enforcement are careful not to glorify narco submarines, but there is a certain begrudging respect for their designers. The largest and most innovative narco subs are an object of natural curiosity. Some, like the two discussed in this article, are engineering marvels. (Many are not.)
On September 7, 2000, a narco sub was found in a workshop in the center of Colombia, hundreds of miles from the ocean. It was, and remains, the most elaborate and impressive narco submarine ever built. At least, that we know of.
A police officer walks through a submarine that was discovered under construction in Facatativa, a rural town just outside of Bogota, in September 2000. Police say it would have been capable of shipping 200 tons of cocaine.
The Facatativá Narco Submarine:
It was discovered nearly complete in workshops in Facatativá, Colombia. Reportedly the authorities had suspected an illegal gas clinger operation and were astonished to discover a submarine. When finished it would have been approximately 120 feet long and capable of carrying 150-200 tons of cocaine. This is an order of magnitude more than any other known narco-sub.
Its defining characteristic was that it was a ‘proper submarine’ made in a similar way to Navy boats. Most narco submarines are actually low profile vessels (LPVs) meaning that although they are very low in the water, they don’t fully submerge. This one could. Intriguingly its design had the hallmarks of Russian engineers.
Naya River: El Naya is one of the many forgotten regions that Colombia has.
A single product dominates daily life on the banks of the river that bears the same name and winds for 120 kilometers from the Western mountain range of the Andean massif to the mangroves of the Pacific Ocean.
In this corner of the Valle del Cauca and Cauca departments where there are no roads or public services, and where employment and the presence of the State are remote, life revolves around the production of cocaine.
Two journalists from ¡PACIFISTA! immersed themselves in this remote place to witness how drugs are produced, transported and taken out of the country.
The documentary film El Naya: the Hidden Route of Cocaine tells the Story of the ‘B-side’ of this business. The bosses who control it internationally or those who sell it in the cities do not appear here.
The protagonists are the peasant coca growers, harvesting raspachines, boatmen from the Pacific and those who survive thanks to the coca plant doing jobs that often do not even mean the value of a minimum monthly wage.
This travel chronicle begins at a point very close to one of those named in the Peace Agreement as Transitory Neighborhood Zones of Normalization in the municipality of Buenos Aires, Cauca, and ends on the shores of Buenaventura. It is a journey through a clandestine path through which the economic mechanisms of the weakest links in the cocaine business are revealed, while showing their production in detail and without precedent.
It is a journey on mule back, on foot and by boat that manages to convey the precarious conditions in which drugs that arrive in North America are produced and transported. And at the same time, it is a testimony of the unsuccessful “war on drugs” that the United States decreed under Richard Nixon in 1971.
This piece that took a year to be made reached more than 2 million visits nationally and internationally; it was broadcast on television, radio and digital media; and, it generated a debate on social networks about the living conditions of the inhabitants of Naya and their relationship with the Peace Agreement agreed with the FARC. It is a testimony of the failed ‘war on drugs’ that the United States decreed by Richard Nixon in 1971. [embedded content]