Inside a Colombian DIY-Drugsmuggling Submarine

Wired hat einen faszinierenden Artikel über die Innereien von kolumbianischen U-Booten, die zum Schmuggel von Koks genutzt wurden. Fotos und Postings über Funde solcher Boote habe ich schon oft gesehen, das hier ist der erste Artikel (soweit ich weiß), der sich wirklich mit dem Aufbau und dem Innenleben von ihnen beschäftigt.

Assembled in secret shipyards along the Pacific coast, they’ve been dubbed drug subs by the press, but they’re incapable of diving or maneuvering like real submarines. In fact, they’re often just cigarette boats encased in wood and fiberglass that are scuttled after a single mission. Yet despite their limitations, these semisubmersibles are notoriously difficult to track. US and Colombian officials estimate that the cartels have used them to ship hundreds of tons of cocaine from Colombia over the past five years alone.

But several years ago, intelligence agencies began hearing that the cartels had made a technological breakthrough: They were constructing some kind of supersub in the jungle. According to the persistent rumors, the phantom vessel was an honest-to-goodness, fully functioning submarine with vastly improved range—nothing like the disposable water coffins the Colombians had been using since the ’90s. US law enforcement officials began to think of it as a sort of Loch Ness Monster, says one agent: “Never seen one before, never seized one before. But we knew it was out there.”

Finally, the Ecuadoreans had enough information to launch a full-fledged raid. On July 2, 2010, a search party—including those three police helicopters, an armada of Ecuadorean navy patrol boats, and 150 well-armed police and sailors—scoured the coastline near the Colombian border. When a patrol boat happened on some abandoned barrels in a clearing off the Río Molina, the posse moved in to find an astillero, or jungle shipyard, complete with spacious workshops, kitchens, and sleeping quarters for 40. The raid had clearly interrupted the workday—rice pots from breakfast were still on the stove.

And there was something else hastily abandoned in a narrow estuary: a 74-foot camouflaged submarine—nearly twice as long as a city bus—with twin propellers and a 5-foot conning tower, beached on its side at low tide. “It was incredible to find a submarine like that,” says rear admiral Carlos Albuja, who oversees Ecuadorean naval operations along the northwest coast. “I’m not sure who built it, but they knew what they were doing.”

Authorities in Awe of Drug Runners’ Jungle-Built, Kevlar-Coated Supersubs

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