In a sign that transport groups may be getting even more serious about trafficking illicit goods across the Atlantic Ocean, authorities in Guyana have discovered a submarine designed to transport drugs.
On August 14, Guyana’s Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU) and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) found a semi-submersible vessel in a tributary of the Waini River near the country’s northwest border with Venezuela, reported the Guyana Times.
CANU director James Singh told the Associated Press the vessel was the first of its kind discovered on the Atlantic side, and said he believed it was part of a large-scale operation that may have been planning to use the semi-submersible to ship drugs to Europe or Africa.
The vessel — which measured 20 meters long and 4 meters wide — was made out of fiberglass and contained a large diesel engine and navigation equipment, reported Carib News Desk.
Although a camp and workshop were discovered near the semi-submersible, no arrests were made during the operation.
At a press conference, Guyanese President Donald Ramotar stated that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would assist local law enforcement with its investigation.
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Guyana is known as a transit point for drugs mostly headed to Europe, often via Africa. The discovery of a submarine there could indicate that this transportation method — once reserved for moving drugs north towards the United States — may now be implemented more often for drugs going to the European market.
The shift may not surprise crime watchers, but it is not as easy as simply turning the submarines in a different direction. The semi-submersibles are mostly crude replicas that travel near land and at or near the surface of the water so the crew can actually breathe (henceforth the “semi” in the name). The trip across the Atlantic would take far longer and involve more navigational skills on the part of the crew.
The difficulty the journey presents leaves open the possibility that these subs are only used for transport in this hemisphere. Although details about the drug trafficking organization that built the semi-submersible have yet to emerge, President Ramotar stated that the vessel was likely linked to foreign groups. The dismantling of a major drug smuggling operation in February revealed the presence of a Mexican criminal group in Guyana, as well as ties to Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Guyana
The discovery of the semi-submersible also comes amidst growing concern about drug trafficking and organized crime in Guyana. According to a 2014 US State Department report, Guyana has become an attractive transit country for Colombian cocaine heading to North America, Europe and West Africa because of its porous borders and weak law enforcement. A former Guyanese military commander echoed these concerns in April when he warned Congress the country was “sleepwalking, step by step, into narco-statehood.”