The illicit underworld of drug smuggling has now gone underwater: drug runners from Colombia are using homemade (jungle-made?) semi-submersibles (built in the Colombian jungle to avoid detection) to bring cocaine to the United States.
[US Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen] believes the semi-subs are a response to the Coast Guard's tactic of using snipers in helicopters to shoot out engines on smugglers' speedboats. The submersibles' engines are beneath water level.
"We're seeing an evolution in the construction," he said. "Early on we saw fiberglass and now we're seeing steel."
Early semi-subs were capable of carrying 4 or 5 metric tons of cargo; newer ones can carry 12 metric tons, Allen said. Their speed has increased to 12 knots, which is "a pretty good speed on the ocean." [...]
Allen said the Coast Guard, the Department of Defense and others are working on how to board the vessels. "In many cases, they don't stop. And it's difficult to slow them down," he said.