By CBSLA Staff

SAN PEDRO (CBSLA) — Whether they are busting smugglers or protecting ships, there is no typical day on the job while working as part of the Los Angeles Sheriff Departments’s Special Enforcement Maritime Cadre Unit.

An hour into their morning patrol, LASD’s Special Enforcement Bureau was in full swing Tuesday looking for anyone who might have been on a panga boat spotted on the Palos Verdes coast.

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The small boats are often used to smuggle drugs or humans. On Tuesday, eight life jackets were found on board, meaning there are at least eight possible rescues.

“Typically these things end up on the rocks in treacherous shoreline. We just want to make sure everyone is safe and no one is in the water,” said Sgt. Kamal Ahmad with the LASD Special Enforcement Bureau.

An ocean and a land search turned up no one, so it’s on to their regular patrol which lately is anything but routine.

The cargo ship chaos off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach mean the job of the elite unit is now heightened:

“It’s literally like a jammed parking lot, I’ve never seen it like this,” said LASD Special Enforcement Bureau’s Deputy Jim Moss.

More ships in limbo mean more possibility these high-risk responders will be needed, helping with injured crews on the container ships, law enforcement calls and rescues meaning the unit trains constantly.

On Tuesday, Air Rescue 5 simulated a ship landing. Moments later, they practiced an evacuation from a moving boat.

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They use sensors to look for signs of radiation or weapons of mass destruction. Port security is a priority.

“A possible terrorist attack would be devastating,” Moss said.

Product security is also a priority.

“You’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of millions and billions of dollars of products that are offshore that need to be protected,” Moss said.

The men and women are all former SWAT team members, all licensed paramedics, and have all been to dive school and mountain rescue school

“In the same shift we can be working Air 5 and have a mountain rescue, a cliff hanger, and then fly out to a missing somebody in the ocean, and then have a hostage rescue and then fly off to something else and have all that in the same day,” Moss said.

“I feel like I have the best job in the world, yes, absolutely,” Ahmad said.

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The Maritime Cadre confirmed today they have increased patrols around the ports as the cargo ship backup continues.