Esquimalt based warship helps put a dent in drug trade

Ottawa crew members involved in international operation in the Caribbean

Sailors aboard HMCS Ottawa keep an eye out for family and friends as their ship docks at CFB Esquimalt after a six-week deployment on Operation (Op) Caribe in the Caribbean. The ship aided U.S. Coast Guard teams in seizing illegal drugs worth more than $145 million US.

Sailors aboard HMCS Ottawa keep an eye out for family and friends as their ship docks at CFB Esquimalt after a six-week deployment on Operation (Op) Caribe in the Caribbean. The ship aided U.S. Coast Guard teams in seizing illegal drugs worth more than $145 million US.

Local singer-songwriter Vince Vaccaro wrote his hit Costa Rica to illustrate a tired man yearning for a fresh start along the shorelines of the picturesque Central American country.

“Can I lose my name, be someone new, and I’ll throw my troubles into the wild blue,” Vaccaro sings.

For the crew aboard a Costa Rican fishing vessel last month, the lyrics couldn’t have resonated more, as the HMCS Ottawa emerged out of the rain and fog of the Pacific Ocean.

Comm. Scott Van Will, Ottawa‘s commanding officer, sent a U.S. Coast Guard team onto the ship, and discovered just over 1,000 kilograms of pure cocaine stacked beneath the deck.

“We seized more more than $145 million in illicit drugs,” Van Will said at the celebratory return of Ottawa to CFB Esquimalt on Friday (Dec. 14).

Van Will led the Canadian component of a Operation Caribbe, a U.S.-led multinational effort to combat narco-terrorism and stem the cocaine supply routes between cultivating areas in South America and the transportation hubs of Central America.

“Generally, (traffickers) head from Colombia or Ecuador north to drop it off in Guatemala, Costa Rica or Mexico for onward distribution to the U.S. and Canada,” Van Will said.

The Ottawa was at sea for nearly two months. It was the first time a Canadian ship was involved in a large drug bust in an international operation, Van Will said.

“The U.S. were very happy and pleased with our efforts (there).”

The weather worked against the crew in locating the small fishing vessels used to transport drugs, primarily cocaine. There were rough seas, with visibility limited in some case to no more than a half-kilometre. Ottawa crew relied on the deployment of a Sea King helicopter to cover large areas of water.

“This time of year, the weather’s pretty bad down there,” Van Will said. “It’s rainy, it’s misty and you’re trying to find one of these really small fishing boats that don’t paint very well on radar.”

Operation Caribbe began in November 2006 and was expanded in October 2010 with of a memorandum of understanding between Canada and the U.S. Department of Defense. In 2011, the joint operation helped remove $4 billion in illicit drugs destined for U.S. and Canadian shores.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Gwen Spencer Hethey is one of four athletes being inducted into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame this year. Here, she is pictured with her mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
Four new names added to Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame

Matt Pettinger, Gwen Spencer Hethey, Peter Lawless and Roger Skillings being inducted

The District of Saanich is accepting nominations for the 2021 Environmental Awards until June 1 at 4 p.m. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Nominations now open for Saanich’s 21st annual Environmental Awards

Awards recognize individuals and organizations making Saanich more sustainable

Rotary Club of Victoria-Harbourside president Angus Macpherson visited the Wear2Start Society boutique in Victoria to present a cheque to the society’s vice-president Alessandra Ringstad (left) and president Angela Mangiacasale. (Courtesy of Wear2Start)
Rotary club donates over $11,000 to Greater Victoria non-profit for women

Wear2Start Society provides clothing for women in need

Adrienne Rogers (LPN) and Tracy McConnell (RN) on the Victoria Hospice Unit. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Hospice)
Victoria Hospice bereavement counsellors dealing with a tsunami of grief

Last year, Victoria Hospice provided end-of-life care to more than 1,000 people

Paddles sit stacked and ready at a rowing regatta on Elk Lake in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria junior girls rowing team nabs first in national Row to Tokyo challenge

Young Victoria City Rowing Club members row more than 2,250 km

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read