Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2012
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Black Press
Author: Daniel Palmer


HMCS Ottawa Plays Key Role In International Enforcement

Local singer-songwriter Vince Vaccaro wrote his hit Costa Rica to
illustrate a tired man yearning for a fresh start along the shorelines
of the picturesque Central American country.

"Can I lose my name, be someone new, and I'll throw my troubles into
the wild blue," Vaccaro sings.

For the crew aboard a Costa Rican fishing vessel last month, the
lyrics couldn't have resonated more, as the HMCS Ottawa emerged out of
the rain and fog of the Pacific Ocean.

Comm. Scott Van Will, Ottawa's commanding officer, sent a U.S. Coast
Guard team onto the ship, and discovered just over 1,000 kilograms of
pure cocaine stacked beneath the deck.

"We seized more more than $145 million in illicit drugs," Van Will
said at the celebratory return of Ottawa to CFB Esquimalt on Friday
(Dec. 14).

Van Will led the Canadian component of a Operation Caribbe, a U.S.-led
multinational effort to combat narco-terrorism and stem the cocaine
supply routes between cultivating areas in South America and the
transportation hubs of Central America.

"Generally, (traffickers) head from Colombia or Ecuador north to drop
it off in Guatemala, Costa Rica or Mexico for onward distribution to
the U.S. and Canada," Van Will said.

The Ottawa was at sea for nearly two months. It was the first time a
Canadian ship was involved in a large drug bust in an international
operation, Van Will said.

"The U.S. were very happy and pleased with our efforts

The weather worked against the crew in locating the small fishing
vessels used to transport drugs, primarily cocaine. There were rough
seas, with visibility limited in some case to no more than a
half-kilometre. Ottawa crew relied on the deployment of a Sea King
helicopter to cover large areas of water.

"This time of year, the weather's pretty bad down there," Van Will
said. "It's rainy, it's misty and you're trying to find one of these
really small fishing boats that don't paint very well on radar."

Operation Caribbe began in November 2006 and was expanded in October
2010 with of a memorandum of understanding between Canada and the U.S.
Department of Defense. In 2011, the joint operation helped remove $4
billion in illicit drugs destined for U.S. and Canadian shores.
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