A ROYAL Australian Navy warship operating under command of Pakistan Navy-led Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), supported by a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) maritime patrol aircraft, coordinated their efforts this week to strike a blow against hashish traffickers off the coast of Somalia to the tune of $280 million (AUD).
The Anzac-class frigate HMAS Toowoomba and the RNZAF P-3K2 Orion aircraft trailed a dhow from the Arabian Sea to the Horn of Africa. After four days of inclement weather, the crew of HMAS Toowoomba were able to board the dhow and, after an exhaustive search, the ship’s boarding team discovered 5588kgs of hashish in hessian bags.
Commander Cath Hayes, the commanding officer of HMAS Toowoomba, praised her team and her colleagues in CMF, “I am proud of the tenacity and hard work displayed by the Toowoomba team to intercept and board the dhow in challenging weather conditions before executing an extensive search of the vessel to locate the elaborately concealed drugs.”
She added: “This is a great result for the ship and our Pakistan Navy colleagues at CTF-150 who led the operation.”
HMAS Toowoomba’s boarding officer, Lieutenant Stefan Stuart, said the drugs were well hidden and, once found, were extremely difficult to access and remove. He said, “It is great to make an intercept of this magnitude. The weather was not on our side but our training and our persistence paid off.”
HMAS Toowoomba was operating under the command of CTF-150, the CMF Task Group responsible for promoting safety and security at sea, and the RNZAF P-3K2 Orion aircraft is deployed in support of the international counter-piracy effort.
CTF-150, currently commanded by Commodore Sajid Mahmood of the Pakistan Navy, is an international task force charged with conducting maritime security operations to deny terrorists the use of the seas as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons, or other illicit material. This is the first successful counter-narcotics interdiction operation for CTF-150 since the Pakistan Navy took command of the maritime security and counter-terrorism mission on 14 August 2014.
Commodore Sajid said, “I am incredibly proud of the sailors and airmen involved in this complicated operation. CTF-150 has a long history of disrupting narcotics trafficking in the region and Toowoomba, with the support of 5 Squadron of the RNZAF, have carried this on. Keep up the good work!”