Galicia, Spain — Authorities in the Spanish region of Galicia confiscated a semi-submersible submarine that was discovered transporting more than 3,000 kilograms of cocaine.
According to a Civil Guard spokesman, the drugs are believed to have come from Colombia, but authorities are still investigating. The ship was captured Sunday off the coast of the port of Aldán. Two of the three crew members operating the 22-meter long boat were arrested.
Both are Ecuadorian citizens, according to the Civil Guard spokesman, who said authorities are looking for the third member of the crew.
“We are working to remove the submarine from the water to verify everything properly,” he added.
The submarine was detected as a result of an “international operation” that involved Spanish Customs, the Spanish National Police and the Civil Guard.
Already this year, drug traffickers have been captured using submarines to transport cocaine to the United States, once in June and again in September.
Lieutenant Commander of the Coast Guard Stephen Brickey told CNN earlier this year, that drug cartels in Central and South America have increasingly used semi-submersible submarines to transport drugs to the United States.
However, boats are not believed to be so common in Europe . They are expensive to build and must be built in remote areas such as the jungle to avoid detection, but once in water, they are difficult to detect from above, Brickey said.
“They are camouflage,” he said. “Most of the ship is underwater, so it is difficult to distinguish it.”
Regional government delegate Javier Losada de Azpiazu said the narcosubmarine intercepted in Spain was found carrying about three tons of cocaine, valued at 100 million euros ($110 million dollars), “a historic operation” and unprecedented in Europe.
Police intercepted the submarine off the coast of Galicia in the northwest of the country. With the help of divers, agents took three days to refloat the submarine and move it to a port near the city of Vigo.
Inside the submersible, authorities noticed it lacked navigation gear, not even having sonar, only a small compass and a sort of rudder. With these instruments, the crew crossed the Atlantic to the Galician coast.
Authorities said the discovery opened a new “hypotheses about the way drug traffickers work in the face of the possible arrival of European submersibles of this entity”.
The use of submarines has already been detected in Colombia, where drug traffickers use them to bring cocaine to Mexico and from there, move to the United States to fulfill the US market demand.