GULF OF ADEN – HMCS Charlottetown, under the command of Combined Maritime Forces task force CTF 150 (counter-narcotics) successfully disrupted an illicit cargo exchange in the Gulf of Aden, May 5.

Charlottetown’s CH-124 Sea King helicopter located a dhow and a skiff that were transferring questionable cargo. “When the Charlottetown gave us permission to investigate the vessels, they were already exchanging packages,” said Major David Holmes, Air Officer. “We gathered intelligence and then the suspect vessels left in opposite directions.”

The skiff continued on a course towards the Charlottetown when it realized it was heading toward a warship, the crew began rapidly dumping the cargo. The helicopter was able to retrieve two packages from the water and the Charlottetown’s rigid-hulled-inflatable boat retrieved the remaining eight packages. All packages contained a total of 600 pounds of hashish.

Once on board, the Charlottetown boarding team established the vessel to be stateless and carried on with an extensive search of the vessel under Canadian Law.

“Although our mission here is much the same as it was in the Mediterranean – to participate in maritime security and counter-terrorism – we’re now in a tougher neighbourhood,” said Commander Wade Carter. “I’m proud of how my crew reacted to this drug interdiction operation. They put their training to the test and executed our plan seamlessly.”

This operation illustrates the need for a security presence in the region. “By being here we are making a difference,” emphasizes Cdr Carter. “90% of global trade is conducted by sea. The world depends on maritime shipping to transport vital supplies such as food and fuel. Operations such as these help ensure that maritime security is maintained, no profit can be made by harmful substances and that these activities do not become a conduit for facilitating terrorism.”

Earlier in the day the same skiff was detected by Charlottetown’s ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and was being watched for suspicious activity.

This year alone, CTF 150 has seized nearly 700 kilograms of illegal narcotics with an estimated value of nearly $50 million. In April, HMS Westminster captured, and destroyed 180 kilograms of pure heroin, valued at $22 million. In February HMAS Paramatta seized 240 kilograms of amphetamines and heroin.

Captain John Carter, Chief of Staff, Combined Maritime Forces commented: “As a CTF-150 asset, HMCS Charlottetown unquestionably demonstrated the awesome and cohesive reach that a 26-Nation maritime partnership can achieve in support of preserving the inviolate security of the globes critical sea lines of communication, and deterring and disrupting the illegal narcotics trade.”

CMF is a 26 nation naval partnership, which exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across approximately 2.5 million square miles of international waters covering the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean; an area which encompass some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.

CMF is comprised of three task forces. CTF 150 is assigned to counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism, CTF 151 conducts counter-piracy operations, and CTF 152 operates in the Arabian Gulf where it coordinates Theatre Security Cooperation (TSC) activities with regional partners, conducts Maritime Security Operations (MSO), and remains prepared to respond to any crisis that may develop.