After the very public debate and vote on the ‘financial bailout’ legislation yesterday, the House passed a number of bills, largely by voice vote. One such bill was S 3598, the Drug Trafficking Vessel Interdiction Act of 2008. This deals with the submersible and semi-submersible craft that have been increasingly used by drug smugglers (see: “Semi-Submersibles as Terror Weapons”) to smuggle drugs into the United States from South America.
A problem that the Navy and Coast Guard have had with interdicting these vessels on the high-seas is that the crews usually scuttle the vessels before they can be seized. The crew is then rescued by the US vessel, but there is no evidence available of a crime having been committed since the drugs are on the bottom of the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico. This law solves that problem by making it a crime to operate a submersible or semi-submersible craft ‘without nationality’. These craft are not registered with any government so they are, by the rules of the sea, ‘without nationality’.
It would seem to me that there are countries in Latin America that would be more than willing to provide a flag of convenience to the operators of these vessels. The governments of Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela would love to have an additional chance to thumb their noses at the American Government. It would not surprise me to hear future news stories indicating that this registration has begun.
Chemical Facility Security Implications
As I noted in my earlier blog, these vessels would be a good way of getting VBIED (vehicle born improvised explosive devices) into a high-risk chemical facility perimeter where that facility uses barges or ocean going vessels to transport chemicals in to or out of the facility.