Joint drug smuggling crackdown seizes hundreds of pounds of cocaine

Estimated street value of drugs seized between $17M-$26M

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Mayport based coastal patrol ship, USS Zephyr, returned home Friday from a two-and-a-half month mission cracking down on drug smugglers in the Caribbean and the waters off Central America.

The crew was greeted by hugs, kisses and tears from family and friends at Mayport.

Navy officials called their mission a huge success, as hundreds of pounds of cocaine were seized during the joint international law enforcement and military operation.

The patrol was longer than patrols the crew has conducted before, and they said time went by pretty slowly at sea. 

The USS Zephyr left Mayport on Aug. 26 for “Operation Martillo,” a 76-day operation involving U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere partner nations. "Martillo" is the Spanish word for hammer.

On Oct. 29, Zephyr and a U.S Coast Guard vessel spotted a “go fast” boat as a possible drug smuggler. A Coast Guard crew boarded the boat and found 17 bales of cocaine. Authorities said another 18 bales were found in the water near the boat. 

Three people were arrested and 726 kilograms of cocaine, valued at about $17 million to $26 million in street value, was seized. Authorities have not released details regarding the people arrested. 

“The Zephyr crew was not deterred in the least by a record-setting 76-day patrol,” Zephyr Commanding Officer Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell said. “The team volunteered liberty time in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to help offload supplies destined for Hurricane Maria victims. This crew inspires and motivates me daily; we may be one-tenth the size of a destroyer and one-tenth the crew, but we have 10 times the heart.”

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