On Sunday, police discovered the submarine loaded with cocaine north of Vigo on Spain's Atlantic coast. It appeared that the crew had tried to hide the evidence. Two men were arrested and a third man is believed to be on the run.
It is the first known example in Europe of a Latin American method of smuggling cocaine - a so-called drug submarine that is a common method in Latin America. It is also believed to be the first time a "transatlantic" drug submarine has been discovered.
160 drug boats
International submarine expert HI Sutton writes in Forbes that he has analyzed over 160 reported drug boats since 1993. He believes that the one discovered on the Spanish coast is unique.
Virtually all previously known drug transports in submarines have been between Colombia and Mexico and carried out in the Pacific. In addition, they have traveled much shorter distances.
A trip across the Atlantic in such a small submarine is difficult to undertake, he notes.
The length of the submarine is estimated to be almost 22 meters long. It is a low profile vehicle that is difficult to avoid detection. But it does not travel completely underwater. Therefore, HI Sutton believes that it is not really a real submarine. Genuine submarines can travel long distances underwater.
Spanish divers on the submarine discovered in northwestern Spain on November 26, 2019. Photo: Lalo Villar / AFP
From South America
The first reports indicated that the "submarine" operated between Guyana in South America and Spain. It was later reported that it made a stop in Portugal. There, the authorities are said to have received the first information about the vehicle.
There have been suspicions of similar drug transports across the Atlantic since 2007.
This is not the first time the Spanish coast at Vigo has been attracted to drug boats. In August 2006, a small steel submarine was discovered abandoned on a beach. There were suspicions that the intention was to use it for drug smuggling. But the submarine was manufactured locally.
The latest discovery changes the view of drug smuggling in our part of the world, writes HI Sutton, who is considered a world-leading writer on various types of submarine constructions.