Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Toronto, working under the banner of the Bahrain-based Combined Maritime Forces’ (CMF) Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, has seized 539 kilograms of high-grade heroin from a smuggling vessel off the Somali coast, making the largest confirmed heroin seizure in CMF history.
HMCS Toronto intercepted and boarded a suspected smuggling vessel in the Somali Basin about 200 nautical miles south east of Mogadishu on the morning of 18 December. Toronto’s boarding party thoroughly searched the vessel and discovered 506 bags of heroin weighing a total of 538.68 kilograms hidden onboard. The illicit narcotics were seized, samples taken for laboratory testing, and the remainder promptly destroyed.
The narcotics have an estimated street value of $107.6 million US dollars and constitute the largest seizure of heroin in the history of CMF. The record for the largest amount of heroin discovered by a CMF unit was previously also held by HMCS Toronto, whose boarding team discovered 500 kilograms hidden aboard a dhow off Zanzibar Island, Tanzania, in March 2013.
Commander Matthew Bowen, Commanding Officer of HMCS Toronto said: “Today’s long and physically demanding boarding culminated in a positive outcome with the discovery of illicit narcotics. The dedication and diligence of HMCS Toronto’s ship’s company and in particular her boarding party, are what have enabled success for our multinational force.”
CTF 150 is currently commanded by a Royal Australian Navy team led by Commodore Daryl Bates. Commodore Bates congratulated HMCS Toronto on her eighth successful narcotics seizure for CTF 150 since March 2013. The narcotics haul followed a number of methamphetamine seizures by HM Australian Ship Melbourne, also part of CTF 150, in the Arabian Sea in recent days.
“Combined Maritime Forces and, in particular, Combined Task Force 150 is determined to inhibit illicit activity in the maritime environment, activity that we know funds violent extremist organisations. We expect that HMCS Toronto’s seizure today, on top of the separate successful counter-narcotics operations in the last week by the Australian warship, HMAS Melbourne, will send a strong message to these terrorist linked organisations,” Commodore Bates said.
He added: “Canada has been a strong supporter of the Combined Maritime Forces since its inception. Toronto’s actions today have again demonstrated the professionalism of the Canadian Navy and its dedication to CTF150’s counter terrorism mission.”
Combined Task Force 150 is one of three principle task forces operated by Combined Maritime Forces, a 29-nation naval partnership based in Bahrain. CTF 150’s area of operation spans over 2.5 million square miles, covering the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. The CTF 150 mandate is to promote security and stability in the maritime environment through Maritime Security Operations and engagement with regional nations and other maritime users. 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 used to aid or fund their activities.