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Press Release | June 6, 2024

Coast Guard, Dutch suspend search for missing persons following counter drug mission in Caribbean Sea

MIAMI – The U.S. Coast Guard, Royal Netherlands Navy and Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard suspended a search for three suspected smugglers who went overboard during pursuit of a non-compliant vessel suspected of smuggling illicit narcotics in the Caribbean Sea, June 4, 2024.

Active search efforts were suspended, Tuesday evening, pending new information.  

In the early morning hours on Tuesday, a Royal Netherlands Navy ship with an embarked U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment deployed for a counter drug patrol identified a vessel suspected of smuggling narcotics in international waters. The vessel failed to stop when signaled and the smuggling vessel operator instead increased speed and changed direction toward the Dutch pursuit boat, called a fast-raiding interception and special forces craft (FRISC).  

The FRISC boat crew, consisting of Dutch and U.S. Coast Guard boarding team members, discharged their weapons at the go-fast vessel in self-defense and defense of others in response to the life-threatening situation. The go-fast vessel caught fire and sank, and three suspected smugglers went overboard into the water and were not recovered.  

There were no reported injuries to the combined law enforcement team members.  

"The Coast Guard is America's primary maritime law enforcement agency, and our crews work hard to safely bring suspected smugglers to face federal prosecution in the United States for alleged crimes," said Lt. Cmdr. John W. Beal, Coast Guard District Seven public affairs officer. “The missions our Coast Guard servicemembers and allied partners do every day to deny transnational criminal organizations access to maritime smuggling routes are inherently dangerous. The decision to suspend active search efforts is not one we take lightly, and the Coast Guard is working to investigate the incident in accordance with Coast Guard policy.”  

Assets and crews involved in the search efforts included:  

  • Royal Netherlands Navy ship HNLMS Groningen 

  • Royal Netherlands Navy ship HNLMS Pelikaan 

  • U.S. Coast Guard helicopter 

  • Kustwacht Caribisch Gebied helicopter 

  • Kustwacht Caribisch Gebied cutter Jaguar 

Detecting and interdicting illegal drug traffickers on the high seas involves significant interagency and international coordination. Once interdiction becomes imminent, the law enforcement phase of the operation begins, and control of the operation shifts to the U.S. Coast Guard throughout the interdiction and apprehension phases. Interdictions in the Caribbean Sea are performed by members of the U.S. Coast Guard under the authority and control of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, headquartered in Miami.  

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