“The cargo, probably cocaine between 1.5 and 6 tons according to the images broadcast, is carried in the forward hull, surrounded by fuel tanks,” explains Sutton. âThe crew occupies the small cockpit at the rear, accessing medication via a tunnel. The three outboard motors provide reliable propulsion with built-in redundancy. These engines are ubiquitous in the region’s fishing fleets and are therefore difficult to trace. “
At the time of the incident, the Guayas was participating in a routine training activity. Over 257 feet in length, the ship is a Spain-built training ship, launched in 1976 and based in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Externally, the design of this ship is reminiscent of the tall ships of the 19th century. Unarmed, the sailboat has a typical crew of around 120 people, including 80 cadets.
According to The maritime executive, the Guayas sailed from Guayaquil on September 10, beginning a planned 70-day trip to Peru, Panama and El Salvador. The same source notes that 147 crew members were on board, including a contingent of fourth-year midshipmen.
It is not clear whether the LPV had been tracked long before its capture or whether it was simply a find for the Guayas. According to the Ecuadorian Navy, other undisclosed units of the service took part in the action, which was coordinated with the Ecuadorian National Police and its department specializing in the fight against organized crime, the ULCO, but no further details were provided.
It is also possible that agencies outside Ecuador were also involved in the mission. The Ecuadorian Navy also works regularly with United States Southern Command to anti-narcotics missions in Latin America.
Either way, the fact that a sailboat managed to capture the LPV at high speed is impressive in itself. While the Guayas has an additional diesel engine, it relies mainly on its sails and its performance would be far exceeded by the alleged drug traffickers, whose boat was literally built for speed and stealth. This suggests that the LPV in question may have broken down or was possibly drifting for some other reason. It is also possible that other prosecution assets were also involved.
While incidents involving drug-smuggling ships off the coasts of South and Central America are not uncommon, the involvement of a three-masted sailboat is clearly out of the ordinary. On the other hand, just last week Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso declared a emergency state to fight drug trafficking and other crimes in Ecuador.
Following the decree, the army and police must step up their presence on the streets of the country, with Lasso saying drugs are now “enemy number one”.
While this anachronistic maritime encounter is unlikely to happen again anytime soon, it shows that even unconventional assets can play a vital role in helping tackle the flow of narcotics into these waters.
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