SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) -- Tipped off by three plastic pipes mysteriously skimming the ocean's surface, authorities seized a homemade submarine packed with 3 tons of cocaine off Costa Rica's Pacific coast.
Four men traveled inside the 50-foot wood and fiberglass craft, breathing through the pipes. The craft sailed along at about 7 mph, just 6 feet beneath the surface, Security Minister Fernando Berrocal said Sunday.
The submarine was spotted Friday 103 miles (166 kilometers) off the coast near Cabo Blanco National Park on the Nicoya peninsula.
"This is the first time in the country's history that a craft with these characteristics has been caught near the national coasts," Berrocal said in a statement.
U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, FBI and Colombian officials aided Costa Rican authorities in the operation, Berrocal said.
Two Colombians, a Guatemalan and a Sri Lankan were arrested and taken to the United States, since they were captured in international waters, Berrocal said.
Officials took the submarine to a Costa Rican Coast Guard station and were trying to determine its origins, the Security Ministry said. It was found with several tanks of gas, but Costa Rican authorities said the vessel, which had a bailer to keep out water, probably did not travel far.
So far this year, Costa Rican authorities have seized 18 tons of cocaine.
In March, the Colombian navy seized a 60-foot fiberglass submarine that likely was used to haul tons of cocaine out to speedboats in the Pacific Ocean for transportation to Central America and on to the United States. Three people were arrested and two speedboats seized during the operation, but no drugs were found.
Colombian authorities say smuggling cocaine by sea has become the top method of transport in recent years, as radar systems have made it difficult to smuggle drugs in small airplanes.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.