Torpedo shells are going to replace Self Propelled Semi Submersibles (SPSS) for cocaine smuggling operations in Columbia. It is very interesting to know why torpedo shells are preferred now to replace SPSS.
- cocaine smuggling by land:
- never safe and can be caught easily by law enforcing agencies
- cocaine smuggling by air:
- private aircrafts were used in 1980s to land cocaine in remote areas but were captured by the law enforcing agencies due to the availability of reliable radars and accurate intelligence
- then cocaine was dropped from aircrafts in remote areas: cargo used to land in wrong locations other than the predetermined areas causing accidents and death
The Present: cocaine smuggling by sea:
- speedboats were used to transport the drugs but when chased by law enforcing agencies, boats used to sink.
- Self Propelled Semi Submersibles (SPSS) (photo on the right by USCG):
- visual detection from the sea surface is extremely difficult as only 1/4th of the the semisubmersible remains above sea surface
- they are painted grey to match the color of the sea surface to avoid visual detection
- mostly made of wood and covered with fiberglass to make it waterproof
- use innovative hydrodynamic design and optimum capacity
- has engines for propulsion, generator to charge the battery for communication equipment
- can travel for 8 to 10 days and can cover a distance of 3000 to 3500 miles
- construction time is 30 to 45 days and in bigger yards, 3 or 4 units are constructed simultaneously
- construction yards are at Buenaventura jungles in Columbia and necessary tools and material are brought from the city of Cali by boats through a river
- area protected by FARC guerrillas
- they are fuelled and loaded with cargo in open sea
- after cargo is delivered they are scuttled
- if the SPSS is chased or boarded then also scuttled to erase the evidence of smuggling
- manned usually by four crew: captain, one more navigator to help captain, engine mechanic, cargo handler
- crew survive on canned food,bread and bottled water
- there are no toilets or bathrooms for the crew
- Profit margin
- one kg of cocaine is sold in US market for 20 to 25,000 USD; 30 to 35,000 USD in Europe
- 7000 kg of cocaine can be carried in a SPSS
- Money earned: 7000 x 25,000 = USD 175 million
- captain gets paid 20 to 25,000 USD per trip
- other crew gets 5 to 6,000 USD per trip
- one million dollar is invested to build a 7 ton SPSS and this cost is hardly 2 to 3% of the whole profit made
First semisubmersible was caught in 1993. As aerial detection is possible, now the narco-traffickers are changing their tactics.
The Future: Neptune Project:
- torpedo shells are going to be used for filling cocaine of 500 kg to 5000 kg
- the torpedo will be towed at 30 metres of depth
- torpedo will have ballast system to control it’s buoyancy
- will be fitted with encrypted radio buoy/beacons for easy identification and location with not more than half metre error over 200 nautical mile range
- there will be total three fishing boats
- main boat: to tow the torpedo with a steel cable of around 200 metres
- lookout boat: will be in front of the main boat to act as a look out; to alert and advise the main boat to release the torpedo in case of an emergency like getting spotted by law enforcing agencies
- standby boat: at the rear of the main boat to continue towing in the event of release of the torpedo by the main boat
- Further innovations are going on to convert this torpedo as an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to smuggle cocaine to Europe using satellite navigation.
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Part1 of 5: Motherboard – Colombian Narcosubs
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