The U.S. Coast Guard on Friday offloaded more than 2,000 pounds of cocaine valued at $27.7 million at Naval Station Mayport.
The USS Rentz seized the 82 bags of cocaine in August from a fishing vessel about 260 nautical miles north of the Galapagos Islands. While the wholesale value is about $28 million, officials say the street value is nearly $78 million.
The contraband was transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter Forward on Sunday. Forward is homeported in Portsmouth, Va.
Crew members aboard the Rentz worked closely with a long-range patrol aircraft operating in the region to initially detect and intercept the fishing vessel suspected of smuggling narcotics.
"We were conducting essentially war games off the coast of Columbia when we met with the Rentz," Capt. Greg Wisener said. "Once those war games were concluded, we were able to take the handoff from them and we were able to get the Rentz back so they could patrol while we headed home."
The suspects and evidence needed for prosecution were turned over to Costa Rican authorities.
The drugs were seized as part of Operation Martillo, a joint operation between the U.S. and 14 other countries to try to prevent the trafficking of illegal drugs in the waterways around Central America.
"It's always a huge success when we are able to intercept illegal drugs from making it here to the U.S." Wisener said. "For this one, it's just significant because it's a dent. We were able to put a dent in it, so we're always thankful for that."
In 2012, the task force responsible for this bust seized cocaine and marijuana worth a wholesale estimate of about $3 billion. Officials say this is further proof that the international war on drugs is still ongoing, and it's one that has to be done carefully.
"Our goal is to remain covert until we want to be seen," Wisener said. "We usually accomplish that. By doing that, we are able to catch bad guys off guard and recover the drugs."
Now that the cocaine has been unloaded, it will be given to the Drug Enforcement Administration.