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T&T link in underwater drug trade

Expert on discovery of Guyana drug sub…
Published: 
Sunday, August 31, 2014
A narco sub at sea.

The recent discovery of a cocaine-smuggling submarine in Guyana opens up the possibility that T&T, already a major transhipment for narcotics, could also be supplying bunkered diesel fuel for the illicit underwater operation. That is the view of University of the West Indies (UWI) sociology lecturer Daurius Figueira, author of Cocaine Trafficking in The Caribbean & West Africa in the Era of The Mexican Cartels.

“The fact that they were building a self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) in Guyana means there are other manufacturing points in the Caribbean and now we have fleets of SPSSes. Before they used to be running in the Pacific between South America and Central America. Now its on both sides, the Caribbean and the Atlantic ocean,” he told the Sunday Guardian.

“This indicates that the Caribbean island chain is now in the big time for cocaine smuggling and T&T has an important role to play—smuggling fuel to these vessels because Guyana has no fuel source. All the fuel in Guyana has to come from either Venezuela or Trinidad.”

Figueira said drug submarines could not operate in the Caribbean without fuel, relay stations or ports and it was obvious from the one discovered in Guyana that product was being moved via SPSSes from the Caribbean to South America and up the Caribbean island chain to the United States.

He said a submarine the size of the one found in Guyana could transport three tonnes of cocaine with ease and close to five tonnes tightly packed. He said the Guyanese vessel was not designed for deep water operations or long hauls as it was a semi-submersible and not capable of diving fully under water like a dedicated submarine.  

The Ministry of National Security, in a release on drug submarines sent to the Sunday Guardian, said they were known to be used particularly by Colombian drug cartels to export cocaine from Colombia to Mexico. The drugs are often then transported overland to the United States.

Griffith: OPVs useless against drug subs
National Security Minister Gary Griffith said T&T had the capability to track and intercept drug submarines in its territorial waters. However, he said, he could not divulge the technology available to local security forces. Griffith added that offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) would not have been able to deal with incursions by drug submarines.

“It emphasises my point about the illogical comments made by a few that if we had three defective OPVs it would stop the flow of illegal drugs and weapons. One hundred OPVs would be useless. The critical operational policies required are not defective 90-metre vessels in deep waters but exactly what we have done, reigniting the security co-operation agreement with Venezuela and Colombia,” he said.

“There is now better sharing [of] information being turned to intelligence upon which heavier deterrents are implemented and national security resources can be streamlined in the appropriate position.”