Miami – The roughly 6,800 kilos (14,978 pounds) of cocaine recovered from a small submarine off Honduras' Caribbean coast is valued at roughly $180 million, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.
Four suspects were apprehended July 13 after scuttling the sub and fleeing in a dinghy as units of the Coast Guard and Honduran navy closed in on the vessel.
It was not until last week, however, that Coast Guard divers located the submarine on the sea floor at a spot some 16 nautical miles off the coast of Gracias a Dios province.
The submarine was first spied by a sea patrol plane of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which immediately alerted the Coast Guard and Honduran authorities.
"The U.S. Coast Guard greatly appreciates the support and cooperation of the Honduran authorities as we worked together to recover the drugs" from the vessel, Capt. Brendan McPherson, 7th Coast Guard District chief of enforcement, said in a statement.
U.S. and Honduran authorities suspect the submarine's journey began in Colombia, one of the world's leading producers of cocaine.
Similiar vessels intercepted in the past were built in Colombia and measured less than 30 meters (100 feet) in length and had a crew of four or five people, with a cargo capacity of 11 tons and a range of 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles).
"Our goal is to interdict cocaine at sea when it is still concentrated in large loads before those drugs can be broken into small loads and smuggled across our border with Mexico," said Rear Adm. William Baumgartner, commander of the 7th Coast Guard District in Miami.