Spanish Police Seize Submarine Built to Carry Drugs

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Spanish Police Seize Submarine Built to Carry Drugs

A police officer examining a narco-submarine that was seized by Spain’s Guardia Civil in 2019.

Photo: Manu Brabo for The Wall Street Journal

Spanish police Friday said they had seized a 30-foot long narco-submarine that could carry 2.2 tons of narcotics, a sign of the lengths cartels are going to transport illegal drugs to the booming European market.

Police said they discovered the narco-sub in Malaga on Spain’s Costa del Sol last month as part of an international police operation that led to the arrest of 52 people and seizure of more than 400 kilos of cocaine, along with other illegal drugs and cash.

The vessel was made of fiberglass and plywood and powered by two 200-horsepower engines, although it had never sailed, police said.

Narco-subs are semisubmersibles that float mostly below the waterline and have long ferried cocaine from Colombia to Central America. In 2019, Spanish law enforcement discovered a narco-sub off Spain’s Atlantic coast, confirming persistent rumors that they can reach Europe.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has said Europe may have surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest cocaine market. Most cocaine shipments are hidden on container ships that dock at large ports, such as Antwerp in Belgium and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Spanish police said the narco-sub discovered last month was most likely intended to transport cocaine ashore from a larger vessel that would have brought a shipment across the Atlantic Ocean.

Write to James Marson at

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