Drug submarine designed to carry over 12 tons of cocaine seized in Ecuador

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QUITO — Authorities seized a large, home-built submarine in a marsh near the Colombian border that was designed to carry as much as 12 tons of cocaine to Mexico, Ecuador’s Antinarcotics Police chief Joel Loaiza said Tuesday.

Measuring 25 meters (82 feet), the air conditioned, fiberglass sub is big enough for a crew of six, has an electronic navigation system, a hybrid electric-diesel engine, periscope, bathroom and could remain under water 12 days at a time.

It was under construction in a makeshift shipyard hidden in a mangrove swamp in Esmeraldas province near the Colombian border. When it was seized on Friday, it just needed its hatch to be finished, Loaiza said.

The sub cost an estimated four million dollars to build and needed the help of naval technicians, he added.

The sub was located thanks to “special information from abroad,” Loaiza said, adding that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) took part in the police-military operation.
One person was arrested during the raid, he added.

“Mexico was the final destination” of the clandestine sub that could carry as much as 12 tons of cocaine — possibly from neighboring Colombia, Loaiza said.

Home-built submarines represent a new challenge to maritime drug interdiction operations, top DEA official for South America’s Andean region Jay Bergman said in a statement given to AFP by the US embassy in Quito.

Ecuador’s Attorney General Washington Pesantez said Ecuador “is still a transshipment point for drugs… although that’s no consolation.”

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