Combined Task Force 150 seizes 981kg of Heroin off East Coast of Africa with a street value of over USD625m

After several weeks of coordinated effort, Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, under the leadership of Captain Crignola, French Navy, has seized 981kg of highly purified heroin from drug smugglers off the East Coast of Africa heading for Tanzania. Ships from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and France conducted numerous boarding’s as part of operations to deter illegal activities and maintain maritime security.

Seized narcotics are laid out on HMAS Newcastle's flight deck in preparation for destruction at sea .

Seized narcotics are laid out on HMAS Newcastle’s flight deck in preparation for destruction at sea .

Deputy Commander Combined Maritime Forces, Commodore Will Warrender, United Kingdom Royal Navy, said “This is a great result, to bring together a coalition of ships and disrupt the trafficking of heroin in such an effective way shows just how well the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) works together. This success was made possible by using many aspects of CMF multi-national operations and international organisations to identify, track and board trafficking ships and dhows across 1000’s of miles of open seas”.

CTF-150 is one of three naval task forces operated by CMF, which is a multinational naval partnership of 30 nations. CTF-150’s mandate is to promote the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment by countering terrorist acts and related illegal activities, which terrorists use to fund their operations or conceal their movements. By interrupting the narcotics trade, CTF-150 is able to deny financial resources to extremist groups.

HMAS Newcastle's sea boats approach a dhow for a flag verification as part of operations involving narcotics interdiction off the east coast of Africa.

HMAS Newcastle’s sea boats approach a dhow for a flag verification as part of operations involving narcotics interdiction off the east coast of Africa.

In total, six of the potential drug smuggling vessels that were boarded were found to be transporting heroin. After initial testing, it was found that the heroin was of a much higher purity than found in previous years of CMF counter narcotics seizures. Under the French command of CTF-150, operating from the Flag Ship French Ship Var, Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Newcastle, Her Majesty’s New Zealand Ship (HMNZS) Te Kaha and Her Majesty’s Ship Richmond were at the forefront of the boarding operations.

Captain Crignola, on board the CTF-150 Flag Ship, FS Var said “We wouldn’t have achieved success without the commitment and professionalism of all the participating nations and regional partners, combining intelligence, assets and experience. Together, CTF-150 made a new contribution to the counter-narcotics efforts and to promote maritime security. We can be proud of what we have done and will continue operations in the coming months.”

Captain René-Jean Crignola, Commander Combined Task Force- 150

Captain René-Jean Crignola, Commander Combined Task Force- 150

On the basis of information sharing between the different allies assets, it was HMAS Newcastle who seized 724Kg of heroin over 4 separate boarding’s during a month of operations that showed the determination to disrupt the illegal activity. This was then followed up by HMNZS Te Kaha who found a further 257Kg from two separate boarding’s of suspicious dhows in June.

Her Majesty’s New Zealand Ship (HMNZS) Te Kaha commanded by Commander Simon Griffiths RNZN, has seized 257Kg of high purity heroin with a United States street value of $164.5m. This was part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 surge operations where a total of 981Kg of Narcotic’s have been seized with a U.S street value of over $625m  Over the last 7 weeks, Te Kaha has been operating at the forefront of CTF-150 as part of their Surge operations to stop illegal trafficking of drugs which can be used to fund terrorist activities in the Indian Ocean. Under the French  CTF150, Te Kaha, was able to intercept board and discover the illegal drugs on two separate occasions. In addition to the intelligence received from the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) headquarters in Bahrain, Te Kaha was able to use information taken from New Zealand Air Force assets supporting CTF-150 operations. It was information directly supplied by the P-3K2 Orion fixed wing asset which identified the latest dhow to be boarded and have narcotics seized.  With this quality intelligence the Te Kaha was able to track down the wooden dhows which had the hidden heroin and make the approaches. After getting the appropriate authority to board, Te Kaha’s boarding team commenced their search utilising a range of techniques including keyhole and destructive searching. Their months of training paying dividends in the fight against drug smuggling by keeping narcotics off the streets, potentially around the world. CTF150’s mandate is about promoting the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment by countering terrorist acts and related illegal activities. Te Kaha has done this through maritime security patrols in the Area of Operations. Information gained on these patrols is continually reported back to CMF and the CTF150 Commander. The ship has also boarded vessels suspected to be aiding terrorism by conducting illegal activities such as smuggling narcotics. The activities of CTF 150 directly influence events ashore, denying international terrorists the use of the seas as a venue for attack or as a means to transport personnel, weapons, or other illicit material. During Te Kaha’s time supporting CTF 150, they boarded and reported on vessels suspected to be carrying narcotics.  The main focus of CTF 150’s operation being to stop as such narcotics providing funding to terrorism.

Her Majesty’s New Zealand Ship (HMNZS) Te Kaha commanded by Commander Simon Griffiths RNZN, has seized 257Kg of high purity heroin with a United States street value of $164.5m.

The commanding officer of HMAS Newcastle Commander Dominic MacNamara, Royal Australian Navy said “Our success is not only due to the tenacity and hard work of Newcastle’s crew, we are the tip of the CMF spear, there are 30 nations working together to achieve these results and our success is a testament to the combined professionalism of all these forces”

One of the key aspects to the success of the operation in this key area was the sustainability of ships at sea for prolonged periods. This is vital to the success of stopping illegal activities of smuggling and drug trafficking which is why having the Command of CTF-150 embarked on FS Var, which is a supply ship as well as the Flag Ship, proved pivotal.

It is also estimated that more than 3 million individual doses of heroin has been prevented from reaching the streets hence reducing the impact that this drug has on our societies.

Members of HMAS Newcastle's ships company carry out the destruction of seized narcotics on the flight deck as the ship and crew carry out maritime security patrols in the Indian Ocean in support of Operation MANITOU.  *** Local Caption *** On 1 April 2015, HMAS Newcastle deployed to the Middle East region for 6 months in support of Operation MANITOU.  Royal Australian Navy ships have been continuously deployed to the Middle East since the start of the first Gulf War in 1990. HMAS Newcastle and her crew have commenced the 60th rotation and marks the fifth time HMAS Newcastle has deployed to the Middle East. Operation MANITOU is the Maritime Security Operation in the Middle East region and is Australia’s contribution to counter terrorism, counter piracy and narcotics interdiction improving overall stability to that region, including the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.

Members of HMAS Newcastle’s ships company carry out the destruction of seized narcotics on the flight deck as the ship and crew carry out maritime security patrols in the Indian Ocean 

The preparatory work for this operation against drug-trafficking started earlier this year when the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Engagement Team engaged the boarding teams coming to the region. Their shore facility allowed the Newcastle crew to familiarise themselves with typical dhow layout and help them fine tune their visit board search and seizure skills tailored to the Middle East environment. Available to all CMF crews, the team of consummate professionals and subject matter experts give the first class direction in a purpose built unit.

About Combined Maritime Forces

CMF is a unique multi-national naval coalition, dedicated to promoting security and prosperity across 3.2 million square miles of international waters in the Middle East. CMF’s main focus areas are defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, reducing illegal activities, and promoting a safe maritime environment.
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