Narco-subs latest: 08-2018
This article is one of a series documenting and analyzing narco-sub incidents and trends. Ref. previous articles from May 2016, October 2016, June 2017, March 2018, April 2018 and July 2018.
1. Mystery surrounding recent trend for narco-subs to have rear cockpits and outboard motors like go-fast boats (aka hybrid narco-subs) may be explained after narco-sub builder arrested. Designs are apparently modified speed boats.
2. Increasing evidence to suggest long-range narco-subs are running the cross-Atlantic route from South America to Europe and/or Africa.
3. Despite the shift to rear-cockpit ‘hybrid’ narco-subs, traditional mid-cockpit LPVs are still being used.
4. Another Very-slender-vessel (VSV) narco-sub has been intercepted.
Narco-sub builder arrested
Colombia News reports that a prominent Colombian businessman has been arrest on suspicion of supplying at least 9 narco-subs to drug cartels. Rodrigo Pineda (aka El Gordo Balin) was arrested in August, three years after the first of his narco-subs was intercepted. This timeline matches the appearance of rear-cockpit ‘hybrid narco-sub’ although the first report of their capture comes from May 2016.
Note that the narco-sub image used in the article is a stock image and shows a traditional mid-cockpit design.
The report says that Pineda’s narco-subs were converted from speed boats, which matches the rear-cockpit variety and explains the planning hulls which are inconsistent with purpose built narco-subs. Speed boats use planning hulls to ride on top of the water surface, termed ‘planing’. These hulls have chines running under the hull to create hydrodynamic lift when the boat is going fast, thus lifting as much of the hull as possible out of the water. A narco-sub however tries to run as low in the water as possible, so these chines are unnecessary or even counter-productive.
The outboard motors of the recent narco-subs are another hint at their speedboat origin. These are likely to have a greater heat signature than the inboard motors used on ‘traditional’ narco-subs.
Pineda allegedly offered drug traffickers in Tumaco and Satinga (Nariño) to build narco-subs in four months at a cost of 2 million dollars each.
The most recent intercept of a rear-cockpit narco-sub was on 1st August 2018. It was reportedly carrying 748 kg of cocaine. Although photographs of the entire boat have not emerged, the blow image suggests that it is typical of the recent ‘hybrid narco-subs’.
It is also possible that it is a VSV (see below) similar to one captured by Guatemalan anti-narcotics police on 13th July 2018.
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Another rear-cockpit ‘hybrid narco-sub’ had been intercepted by the USCG cutter Mohawk on 3rd July 2018.
Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray, USGC
Narco-subs to Europe
The Colombia News article also reports that Pineda’s cousin, Fernando Pineda, had been arrested in Suriname, along with 6 other Colombians who had built a narco-sub to transport drugs to Europe (!!!!). This ties to the March 2018 report of a large twin-engine narco-sub being discovered there:
Traditional design Narco-sub intercepted
The Colombian Navy intercepted a narco sub on 17th August 2018. Significantly this craft had the traditional mid-cockpit layout with a single engine mounted inboard. This layout was standardized for narco-subs from around 2008 until 2016 when the rear-cockpit type first emerged, dominating intercepts. The boat was 12 meters long, 3 meters wide and had a three-man crew (four men would be more typical of narco-subs). The craft had reportedly suffered mechanical problems.
Note that some articles reporting this intercept show images from the 1st August capture.
Another Very-Slender-Vessel (VSV) narco-sub was intercepted by USCG Cutter Alert on 1st July 2018 in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Masaschi, USCG
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