Narco-Sub Carrying $27M Worth of ‘Scorpion’ Cocaine Intercepted by the Colombian Navy

By: Lauren | Published: Jan 27, 2024

The Colombian Navy recently found over 1,700 pounds of cocaine worth $27 million in a submarine in the Pacific Ocean.

The cocaine, which was marked with a scorpion or the words “Winnie” or “Carnal,” was likely on its way to the U.S. or Europe, and by finding it, the Navy reports that two million doses of the dangerous drug will never be ingested.

What Is a Narco-Sub?

A narcotics submarine, or a narco-sub, is the nickname given to submersibles found with drugs inside, and sadly, it’s quite a common practice.

Photograph of the narco-sub found by the Colombian Navy in January 2024

Source: @Inquirer/YouTube

These submarines are typically homemade from plywood and fiberglass; they are extremely difficult to detect and are easily sunk after the delivery is completed.


Narco-Subs Are Hard to Find

Even though narco-subs are challenging to find in the vast Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico on either side of Colombia, the navy works diligently to find as many as they can.

Colombian Navy search a found narco-sub containing 800 kilos of cocaine

Source: @Inquirer/YouTube

Fortunately, in 2023 alone, the Colombian Navy found more than 30 tons of cocaine and 5 tons of marijuana in narco-subs. And now, within the first few weeks of 2024, they’ve found close to another ton.

Colombia Produces More Cocaine Than Any Other Country

The Colombian Navy focuses much of its efforts on confiscating drugs within hidden narco-subs as the country produces more cocaine than anywhere else on earth.

Cocaine paste processing plant in the jungle

Source: Greg Smith/Corbis/Getty Images

According to The Wall Street Journal, Colombia produced 1,738 tons in 2022. That means that even though the navy found 30 tons last year, 1,438 tons still made their way to the streets.

Coca Leaf Farms Cover 888 Square Miles of Colombia

One of the main reasons why Colombia creates and exports so much cocaine is because the coca leaves, from which the drug is made, grow easily in the country’s climate.

A close-up on coca leaves in Cali, Columbia

Source: Christan Ender/Getty Images

As a matter of fact, the government assumes that there are currently 888 square miles of coca leaf farms throughout the country.

The Majority of Colombia’s Cocaine is Sent to the U.S. and Europe

The vast majority of Colombia’s cocaine is sent via narco-subs and various other avenues to buyers in the United States or Europe.

Containers at Antwerp port in Belgium

Source: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

The port of Antwerp in Belgium is Europe’s most commonly used entry point, and officials there say they’ve confiscated more cocaine this year than ever before.


The First Narco-Sub of 2024

So, of course, it’s not surprising that the Colombian Navy already found a shipment of the illegal drug, but it is certainly an exceptionally big bust and great news for the country and the world as a whole.

Colombia Navy trails a found narco-sub in January 2024

Source: @Inquirer/YouTube

According to the navy, when they apprehended the narco-sub, it was somewhere in the Pacific off the coast of Buenaventura, Colombia.


There Were Three Men on Board

They released very little information, but the navy did say that there were three men on board the submarine who were immediately apprehended and moved to the nearby port at Buenaventura.

An armed marine from the navy infantry keeps an eye on the street activities near the fish market in La Galeria neighborhood, Buenaventura

Source: Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images

The men will, of course, be charged, though their names and exact charges are still considered confidential information.


The Narco-Sub Had a 'Small' Amount of Cocaine

Once the Colombian Navy was able to extract the narco-sub from the water and search it thoroughly, they found 800 kilograms or $27 million worth of cocaine inside.

Colombian Navy searches a narco-sub found in January 2024 with 800 kilos of cocaine

Source: @Inquirer/YouTube

And while that is certainly a lot of cocaine, navy spokesperson Capt. Wilmer Roa told WION this was a “small” bust: “We’ve caught submarines with almost 3,500 kilos.”


This Bust Still Took Two Million Doses Off the Streets

However, while this may technically be a “small” bust for the Colombian Navy, it’s certainly still a big win in that two million doses of the drug will never make it to the streets.

Colombian Navy officials stand near a giant cocaine confiscation

Source: @Pia_Fidelis/X

The navy said so itself in a recent statement: “With this seizure, the entry of nearly $27m to drug trafficking organizations was prevented, as a result of its sale in the international illegal market, as well as the distribution of approximately two million doses on the streets of the world” (via BBC).


The Colombian Navy Will Likely Find Many More Narco-Subs in 2024

Although they confiscated an incredible 30 tons of cocaine in 2023, experts expect that the Colombian Navy will find much more in 2024 as cocaine production is only increasing.

Colombian Navy next to a submarine

Source: @WarshipCam/X

To combat this ever-growing problem, the Colombian Navy is working closely with the Marines in other countries, such as Ecuador and Mexico, to ensure they catch as many subs as they can.


Colombia Is Devoted to Decreasing the Country’s Cocaine Production and Exportation

While the Colombian Navy is hard at work attempting to find the drugs being exported from the country, the Colombian government and on-land law enforcement are doing their best to stop production in the first place.

Men from the Amphibious Assault Brigade of marine infantry of the Colombian navy in Buenaventura, Colombia

Source: Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images

However, as rebel groups and drug trafficking gangs are fighting back, and many local residents make their livelihood from producing coca leaves, it will be an uphill battle to even slow production growth.