SAN DIEGO – Crews from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) intercepted a panga boat with 23 illegal aliens on board adrift off the coast of Southern California early Monday morning.
At about 9:45 p.m. on November 15, a multi-role enforcement aircraft (MEA) crew from Bellingham, WA spotted a single engine panga-style vessel traveling northbound out of Mexican territorial waters with no navigational lights on and with multiple persons on board. As the boat continued moving northbound into U.S. territorial waters, the MEA crew continued updating position, course and speed of the suspect vessel to a AMO Coastal Interceptor Vessel underway.
At approximately 11:18p.m., the MEA crew advised that the vessel was dead in the water 25 nautical miles southeast of San Clemente Island and 40 nautical miles southwest of Point Loma, California. At approximately 1:00 a.m. on November 16, the MEA crew was able to direct the Air and Marine Coastal Interceptor Vessel to the scene. Upon arrival, agents boarded the vessel and immediately secured all 23 persons onboard. The subjects, all male, stated they were citizens of Mexico. The agents transferred all the occupants onto their vessel and took the panga into a tow, and transported them to Ballast Point, CA.
Upon arrival at Ballast Point, agents turned the vessel’s passengers over to U.S. Border Patrol for further immigration inspection. The San Diego Air and Marine Branch seized the panga.
“This interception exemplifies Air and Marine Operations ability to bring crews from around the country to perform the mission,” said Timothy Sutherland, AMO San Diego Air and Marine Branch. “By squeezing 23 people onto a single engine vessel, at night on the open ocean, it also highlights the risks which smugglers will subject people in search of profits.”
If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the coast of California, please call the San Diego Joint Harbor Operations Center at 1-800-854-9834 extension 1, or notify local law enforcement by dialing 9-1-1.
The Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM) is comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, CBP’s Air and Marine Operations, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and state and local law enforcement partners operating in Southern California. ReCoM coordinates planning and operations to target the threat of transnational crime along the California coastal border.