Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 ships have intercepted a suspected drug smuggling vessel and seized the largest haul of amphetamines in the history of the Combined Maritime Forces.
The Royal Australian Navy’s Guided Missile Frigate, HMAS Melbourne, in co-operation with a US Navy P3C Maritime Patrol Aircraft and Royal Canadian Frigate HMCS Toronto, located two suspicious vessels operating in the North Arabian Sea while conducting maritime security operations in the region.
Under the command of the Australian-led CTF 150, which operates as part of the 29-nation Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) based in Bahrain, a US Navy P3C aircraft and HMAS Melbourne’s embarked S-70B Seahawk helicopter both observed the suspected drug-smuggling vessel transferring a number of unidentified packages to another dhow operating in the same area.
The Australian Navy boarding team identified a suspicious substance while conducting a standard security sweep of one of the vessels. The material was tested on board the dhow and returned a positive reading for an amphetamine-based substance.
The US Office of National Intelligence has estimated that the 9.8kg of amphetamines seized had a street value of almost four million US dollars. Melbourne’s team seized the suspected narcotics, took samples for further analysis, and promptly destroyed the remainder.
Commander Brian Schlegel, Commanding Officer, HMAS Melbourne, said: “Following the initial identification of the suspected vessel by HMCS Toronto and Combined Task Force 150, it required the coordination of US Navy Maritime Patrol Aircraft, HMAS Melbourne’s embarked S-70B Seahawk helicopter and two boarding parties. The boarding parties did an outstanding job to locate and seize the illegal narcotics”.
The successful seizure and destruction of the illegal narcotics further demonstrates CMF’s commitment to deter illicit activity and promote maritime security and stability in the Middle East region.
Commodore Daryl Bates, Royal Australian Navy, Commander of CTF 150 said:
“The successful outcome of this highly complex operation, involving multiple military units from three separate countries is testimony to the effectiveness of the 29-nation Combined Maritime Forces and the important role it plays. This particular haul will assist in our efforts to disrupt the funding networks of terrorist groups which rely on the smuggling of narcotics to fund their illicit activities.”
HMAS Melbourne and HMCS Toronto are on patrol in the Middle East and northern Indian Ocean regions under tasking to the Combined Maritime Forces, as part of CTF 150, whose mandate is about promoting the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment. Maritime Security Operations deny international terrorists the use of the seas as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons, or other illicit material.