Operating as part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, the French Destroyer FS Jean Bart and Australian frigate HMAS Darwin have seized 646 kilograms of cannabis resin from a narcotics smuggler in the Red Sea.

HMAS Darwin’s boarding party board a suspicious Barracuda skiff to conduct a search for illegal contraband.

On 7 March 2014, Captain Benoit Baudonnière, CTF 150 Task Group Commander, instructed a French Atlantique Maritime Patrol Aircraft and HMAS Darwin’s S70-B Seahawk helicopter to locate and track a large skiff in the Red Sea. As the movements of this skiff appeared to be suspicious, he had HMAS Darwin intercept and investigate the vessel.

 During a standard security sweep, Darwin’s boarding party found the cannabis resin in 120 plastic packages hidden in hessian bags labelled ‘Basmati Rice’.

Captain Baudonnière said, “These combined operations clearly demonstrate the high level of interoperability between the Australian and French navies. The key to this success was the fruitful exchange throughout the planning phase which enabled us to be ready for action as soon as we reached the operating area.” 

Commenting on the seizure, Commander Terry Morrison, Commanding Officer HMAS Darwin said: “HMAS Darwin is successfully working with CTF 150 to defeat terrorism and terrorism-related activities while reinforcing maritime safety and security. Today we removed these drugs which could be funding terrorist networks, and demonstrated the highly effective interoperability of HMAS Darwin with the French Atlantique aircraft, the FS Jean Bart, and CTF 150.”

A Barracuda skiff is sent on its way on completion of a boarding conducted by HMAS Darwin’s boarding party, where 120 5kg bags of cannabis resin were seized.

The Australian commander of CTF 150, Commodore Daryl Bates AM, Royal Australian Navy, said: “This seizure in the Red Sea reinforces our concerns that smugglers are active in the area. I commend the Commanding Officer of FS Jean Bart for his astute coordination of multinational assets to locate, intercept and seize these narcotics. HMAS Darwin should similarly be proud of her great work. This is a fine example of how navies operating in CTF 150 successfully combine their efforts to counter illicit activities on our oceans.”

CTF 150 is one of three task forces operated by Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). Its mission is to promote maritime security in order to counter terrorist acts and related illegal activities, which terrorists use to fund or conceal their movements.

 CMF is a multi-national naval partnership, which exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across approximately 2.5 million square miles of international waters, which encompass some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.