The Royal Navy ship HMS Somerset, supporting Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, has seized an $22.4m (USD) haul of heroin after a raid on a suspect vessel in the northern Arabian Sea.
The 55.7 kilogrammes of drugs were seized by sailors and Royal Marines from Plymouth-based HMS Somerset who intercepted the fishing dhow in fast RHIB dinghies.
HMS Somerset’s crew found the dhow, a type of vessel common to the Middle East and Indian Ocean, on Sunday afternoon, during an operation for the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).
CTF-150 is currently commanded by Royal Navy Commodore Jeremy Blunden, and his team of 24 Royal Navy personnel, from the CMF headquarters in Bahrain.
HMS Somerset’s Lynx helicopter was launched to intercept the dhow and guide the boarding team to its exact location.
Once on board, the Royal Navy team worked tirelessly for 23 hours throughout the evening and overnight to find the contraband’s hiding place, stashed under a false deck.
Afterwards, they brought the drugs on board HMS Somerset where they were tested for purity and then destroyed.
Captain Steve Taylor Royal Marines, the officer in charge of the boarding team, said: “Boarding is very unpredictable by its nature and you simply do not know what you will be faced with.
“The length of time it took to get this result makes it even sweeter and was a genuine whole-ship effort. This was an example of Somerset operating at her very best and achieving results.”
Lieutenant Tom Loxton Royal Navy, another officer in the boarding team, said:
“This is a perfect outcome following 18 months of training and operations. The boarding was challenging and it took many hours to locate the well hidden stash but the team persevered and their patience was rewarded with the multi-million pound bust.”
CTF-150 is one of three international naval task forces operating under the CMF banner in the Middle East, which aim to counter terrorism, piracy and related illicit activity across more than 2.5 million square miles of ocean.
Commander Mike Smith Royal Navy, who is HMS Somerset’s Commanding Officer, said: “HMS Somerset’s success last night in intercepting a vessel smuggling heroin is a great example of what the Naval Service does best.
Commodore Jeremy Blunden Royal Navy hailed the British warship’s success.
He said: “I am delighted that HMS Somerset has made this intercept while CTF-150 is under UK command. I offer my congratulations to Commander Smith and his team for finding this well hidden contraband in difficult conditions.
“This is the ninth seizure of heroin that CTF-150 has made this year as part of a determined effort to combat both the flow of heroin across the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean to East Africa and funding to terrorist organisations. The destruction of the drugs will reduce key funding lines for known terror groups.”