California Has a Drug Boat Problem

US officials tow out an abandoned panga along the central California coast (via)

Last we heard, cartel swift boats were hammering the West Coast with enough breakneck urgency to kill a US Coast Guard--the first killed by drug runners since Prohibition--in an open-water collision last year. As it turned out, those boats, or pangas, weren't just typically 40-feet in length and outfitted with multiple motors; they were hauling around a whole lot more than just medicore weed and high-grade Colombian blow

While not much has changed there--beached boats, which more and more are being used to carry human cargo, hit a high-water mark last year--what is coming to light is the stark reality faced by some of those oceanside companies on contract with the US government to haul away deserted drug vessels. There was a time when Vessel Assist, a sort of "AAA for boats", would simply auction off deserted craft, which are growing more and more technologically advanced as they shuttle drugs, immigrants, and increasingly ruthless cartel underlings further and further north. Now, Vessel Assists has no choice but to destroy the boats. 

"Not too long ago...abandoned or seized pangas were auctioned off," as Public Radio International reports. "But the same boats showed up again and again. So now authorities just chop them up."

Just imagine the scrap fiber-glass and metal potential. Christ. Or for that matter, imagine the potential of what could be boatloads of seized rich mahogany: In bids to outsmart authorities and services like Vessel Assist, who ironically receives calls from panga captains who've run aground, cartels are taking to more non-traditional and lavish vessels to keep anything suspicious below deck. 

Reach Brian at brian@motherboard.tv. @thebanderson

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