An estimated 70% of the cocaine entering America from Colombia is carried across Pacific waters in narco-submarines to Mexico where it is then transported across the border by land.
The narco-submarines are semi-submersible vessels, and have only a small portal; their air and exhaust pipes stick out of the water, which make it difficult to track with a radar. It has the ability to cut its engine and dive down some 30 feet to hide from interdiction boats and aircraft.
Narco-submarines are often made with thick fiberglass, have a 346-horse power engine, and the space for a crew of four. They can be as long as 70 feet, they can travel about 900 miles, and have the cargo space to transport about 8 tons of cocaine. They are usually a hybrid of high and low technology, equipped with GPS, electronic charts and two types of radios. The periscope often has two cameras, one for daylight and one for night vision to monitor the sea surface while submerged.
A captain hired by narco-traffickers, who made three runs to Mexico at the helm, described the conditions inside a narco-submarine as “hellish,” with the crew subsisting on crackers, canned beans and milk. One trip can take up to three weeks, and poor ventilation can push up temperatures inside to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, making it hard to breathe.
“There’s always an armed person on board to keep watch over the crew and the cargo,” the former captain told Time magazine. “If anyone starts to panic or mutiny, his orders are to eliminate the troublemaker.”
For photos of narco-submarines, click here.