Allyson Bennett

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Congress passed the Drug Trafficking Vessel Interdiction Act (DTVIA) in 2008 to address a new tool employed by drug traffickers to transport illicit drugs worldwide: the self-propelled submersible vessel (SPSS). According to one congressman, at any particular moment more than one hundred of these vessels are destined for the United States, and each can carry large amounts of drugs. One SPSS vessel intercepted by the Coast Guard, for example, contained seven tons of cocaine, worth $187 million. SPSS vessels pose new problems for law enforcement. They are both difficult for the Coast Guard to detect and easy for crewmembers, who often prefer losing their cargo to being caught, to sink. At the first sign of the Coast Guard, drug traffickers can quickly sink the vessel and jump into the ocean, which destroys the evidence necessary to prosecute them for a drug offense and forces the Coast Guard to undertake rescue operations.

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