Spanish authorities have seized over 3,300 lbs of cocaine hidden inside the engine of a Brazilian-flagged fishing boat.
The 80-ft long vessel – named ‘Efesios 5-20’ – was intercepted some 150 miles off the coast of the Canary Islands during a joint operation conducted by the Civil Guard, the Customs Surveillance Service of the Tax Agency, and the National Police.
Video footage obtained from the Civil Guard by Newsflash shows Spanish patrol boats catching up with the Brazilian vessel amid towering sea waves.
The boat – authorities said – was estimated to be carrying a total of 1,500 kilogrammes (3,300 lbs) of the illicit drugs, divided into 60 bales.
The narcotics were discovered in a specially designed compartment located in the engine room of the fishing boat, meant to conceal and impede detection during potential inspections.
Criminal groups often choose the engine room because the loud noise and high temperatures inside make it difficult for authorities to properly search it, the Civil Guard said.
They said that, in addition, harsh weather conditions made the capture operation challenging, but agents aboard the Customs Surveillance patrol boat ‘Condor’ still managed a successful bust.
During the operation, all six crew members were apprehended, according to the Civil Guard.
Five of them – including the captain – were reportedly of Brazilian nationality, while one was Venezuelan.
The joint operation – carried out with the help of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre against Narcotics (MAOC-N) and coordinated by the Intelligence Centre against Terrorism and Organised Crime (CITCO) – was conducted under extremely severe weather with Force 7 winds.
In addition to the challenging weather conditions, the operation faced the difficulty of navigating back to port with a damaged fishing vessel, according to the Civil Guard.
On the way back, the fishing boat had experienced a leak in the engine room and its engine later stopped working.
The ‘Condor’ and its apprehended crew arrived at the port of Las Palmas on 12th May, where they offloaded the seized drugs and placed the detainees into custody.
The Ministry of the Interior said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “This operation is added to those already carried out in the fight against drug trafficking in the so-called ‘Atlantic Route’ of cocaine, known for being used by sailing ships, fishing boats and merchant ships that, coming from South America and the Caribbean, transship narcotic substances in the middle of the Atlantic for its later introduction in the European continent.
“On this occasion, the fact that the small fishing vessel was so close to the Spanish coasts has drawn the researchers’ attention, since transhipments normally take place at a greater distance.
“The success of this type of action is the result of the excellent collaborative work between various European and national organisations (MAOC, CITCO) and the different police and customs forces, as well as, in this case, the cooperation of the Brazilian authorities.”