Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

Consider it a victory for technology from the 18th century over criminal innovation in the late 20th century.

Last week, a three-masted sailing ship belonging to the Ecuadorian fleet captured a so-called “narco submarine”, a homemade low profile vessel (LPV) designed for transporting illegal drugs, in the Pacific off Colombia, according to a statement from the Ecuadorian military.

That said the bark Guayas, used to train naval cadets in seamanship, the narco submarine intercepted in international waters between the exclusive economic zones of Colombia and the Ecuadorian islands of the Pacific Ocean.

This Ecuadorian navy sailing ship intercepted and seized a narco submarine. (Ecuador’s Ministry of Defense)

Three Ecuadorian nationals and a Colombian were remanded in custody, the statement said, although it did not provide any details on what drugs could have been on board the narco undercarriage, which was powered by three outboard engines.

The 78-meter-long sailing ship, powered by more than 1,393 square meters of sail, hung from three towering masks, was on a training expedition when it spotted the drug-powered vessel and stopped, the Ecuadorian military said.

That Guayas is designed to carry 80 cadets as well as a permanent crew of 36.

Most narco submarines are actually LPVs, essentially boats with most of their bulk below the waterline, although more advanced versions are what are known as semi-submersibles, vessels with only a hatch and air intakes above the surface.

The LPVs only emerged in the late 1990s when Colombian drug cartels were looking for ways to evade U.S. law enforcement patrols in the Caribbean and get their illegal cargo into the United States.

In 2019, a video showing a U.S. Coast Guard officer boarding a narco submarine arresting its occupants went viral.

Three Ecuadorian nationals and a Colombian were arrested after the drug submarine was seized. (Ecuador’s Ministry of Defense)

Sailing ships had their heyday in the 18th and early 19th centuries, when European powers such as Britain, France and Spain built fleets to protect their commercial shipping interests.

But the advent of steam power in the mid-19th century quickly referred sail-powered military vessels to the scrapping plant.

But several nations still use sailing ships to train recruits in basic seamanship.

The US Coast Guard barque Eagle is used to train service cadets and is the only active sailing ship in the U.S. military.

“The old ways still have a lot to learn,” says the US Coast Guard Academy’s website about Eagle.

“The conditions and situations you encounter while sailing cannot be repeated either in a classroom or on board today’s modern ships.”

Narco submarines, or low-profile vessels (LPV), are designed to transport illegal drugs from South America to Mexico and the United States. (Included)

It’s the kind of training that can lead to a sailing ship crashing into a mechanically powered vessel, said Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College London.

“Sailors train regularly to man this ship to the utmost of its capabilities, which means that under favorable weather conditions its sails could propel it well over 10 knots,” said Professor Patalano.

“While this is not a speed comparable to modern ships, when combined with a skilled crew, it would certainly give the ship a head start over four narcos on a homemade drug-carrying raft, as fast as it could have been, “he said.

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