U.S. customs officers seized 877 pounds of cocaine concealed on board a Caribbean ferry boat in a single bust over the holidays, according to Customs and Border Protection. The value of the seized cocaine was estimated at $9.1 million.
“Our experienced CBP officers remain vigilant, utilizing their training and available tools to stop dangerous drugs from entering the country,” the port of entry director for Puerto Rico, Roberto Vaquero, said in a statement on Tuesday.
On Dec. 26, officers noticed a hidden compartment during a routine cargo inspection of the arriving boat at a dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they discovered 355 tightly wrapped packages that were the size of bricks, CBP said. The contents later tested positive for cocaine.
Registered in the Bahamas, the vessel regularly transits through the Caribbean Sea between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, according to authorities.
The seizure comes amid a surge of migration across the Caribbean.
U.S. officials in south Florida have seen a 400% increase in migrant encounters so far this fiscal year compared to the same period last year, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said Wednesday.
Officials based out of the Miami region have tracked and disrupted 26 human smuggling events involving nearly 600 migrants in the past five days alone, Ortiz said.
The transnational criminal organizations that facilitate human smuggling are often the same groups that traffic weapons and drugs, U.S. officials say.