Police did not name the speedboat seized Tuesday along with some 1,800 kilograms of cocaine, but officers were inspecting the above boat yesterday at the Police Marine Base. (Photo: Allison Vaughn)

Police seized 60 bales containing about 1,800 kilograms of cocaine shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday after intercepting a go-fast boat near Hodges Creek in what they described as the territory’s largest sea seizure ever.

The suspects escaped on foot after abandoning the boat at Hodges Creek Marina, and no arrests had been reported as of yesterday afternoon.

Police, who conducted the operation jointly with United States Customs and Border Protection, said the boat was seized along with the drugs.

The operation came two days after UK officials announced that the Royal Navy vessel HMS Trent recently conducted two separate at-sea seizures of cocaine near the US Virgin Islands of 94 bales and 29 bales that were valued at over $280 million and $89 million respectively.

VI police haven’t disclosed the estimated value of the coke seized in the Hodges Creek bust, but a spokesperson said the drugs weighed approximately 1,800 kilograms.

“This commendable joint operation resulted in the largest sea seizure to date,” Police Commissioner Mark Collins said in a press release. “The successful interception underscores our unwavering commitment to eradicating illicit activities in the region.”

The Hodges Creek bust exceeds another large bust that the US Coast Guard made in 2021 in the waters near Anegada, where approximately 1,700 kilograms with a reported wholesale value of $51 million were seized, officials said at the time.

Police said investigations continue in the Hodges Creek case.

Royal Navy busts

On Monday, the Royal Navy announced that crewmembers aboard the warship HMS Trent recently seized more than 2,757 kilograms of cocaine and other drugs after chasing a speedboat south of the USVI.

The recovered drugs were packed in 94 bales that crewmembers aboard the fleeing boat began tossing overboard as they were being intercepted at night by crafts launched by the Trent, naval officials said in a press release.

The value of the drugs seized was estimated at more than $280 million, according to the Navy. Twenty of the bales were dumped in the water during the nighttime chase while the other 74 were recovered on the boat, officials said.

Alleged traffickers on the fleeing boat were apprehended by USVI authorities when the craft ran aground, the release added.

It didn’t say where the grounding occurred.

“This operation sends a clear message: The Royal Navy remains resolute in its efforts to disrupt and dismantle the operations of drug traffickers across the world,” United Kingdom Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps said in the release.

Joint operation

The bust was a joint operation among British sailors, Royal Marines and a US Coast Guard team stationed aboard the Trent.

A US patrol aircraft also assisted in the operation, which was launched after “intelligence reports” were received by the US Joint Interagency Task Force South, which leads US drug interdiction efforts in the Caribbean, according to the release.

“I am immensely proud of the combined team of Trent ship’s company, USCG team and 47 Commando Royal Marines who carried out the intercept and pursuit straight from generation in challenging conditions to get the right result,” said Lieutenant Commander Mike Rydiard, the Trent executive officer who held temporary command of the ship during the bust.

Earlier bust

The bust was the Trent’s second in three weeks, the UK government said.

A separate seizure near the USVI in January reportedly resulted in about $89 million worth of cocaine seized. The exact date of that bust — which reportedly involved a 38-foot “go-fast boat” and what officials described as a “high-octane chase that ensued under moonlight” — was not disclosed.

“Despite their best efforts to evade us, and with our boats and the ship bearing down on them at speed, the 38-foot go-fast finally gave up the chase and we were able to get alongside and enable members of the US Coast Guard to seize the vessel,” a Royal Navy marine said in a press release.

The marine, a member of the 47 Commando Unit, was not named for “operation reasons,” the Navy stated.
The drugs were recovered after a 10-hour search of a 24-mile stretch of ocean south of the USVI, the release stated.

In a separate release, the UK government disclosed that four crewmembers aboard the go-fast boat were taken into custody during the bust. Their names and any charges against them were not listed in the release, but UK officials described the bust as a major blow to cocaine traffickers in the Caribbean.

Regional surge

The busts come amid a surge in cocaine trafficking globally and in the region.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s “Global Report on Cocaine 2023,” global supply of the drug has reached “record levels” in recent years, with an estimated 2,000 tons produced in 2020.

In the VI, seizures are also on the upswing. In early January, VI police told the Beacon that they had seized some 1,601 kilograms of drugs in first 11 months of 2023, compared to 1,101 kilograms seized in all of 2022.