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. Ships from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and France conducted numerous boarding’s as part of operations to deter illegal activities and maintain maritime security.
In addition to the extensive training the coalition forces receive prior to arriving in to the joint operations area of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) they received ‘in theatre’ familiarisation on Visit, Board, Search and Seize, (VBSS). This exchange of information that was hosted by the consummate professionals of the United States Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia covered scenarios and topics to increase the proficiency of boarding teams across the region.
- S. Coast Guard provides Counter-Narcotics and VBSS workups for CMF
- HMAS Newcastle undertakes Boarding work up with NCIS and USCG based in Bahrain
- HMS Richmond starts boarding operations on joining CTF-150
Command and Control
Commander CTF150, Captain Crignola, French Navy, based on the Task Force flag ship French Ship (FS) Var took over command of CTF-150 in May 2015. Working with the CMF coalition forces the French Navy has positioned international assets from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to assist mariners in international waters and to monitor traffic for suspicious activity and to board vessels that are suspected of illegal activities.
- French Commanding CTF-150
- CTF-150 French and British ship meet at sea
- HMAS Newcastle finds replenishment support from the French
- Commander CTF-150 visits HMNZS Te Kaha
To achieve the mandate of CTF150 to ensure maritime security and safety of passage, members of the task force routinely approach and assist traffic throughout the 2.5 million square miles of ocean in the joint operating area. In some instances vessels are boarded due to suspected illegal activity which could supplement funding of terrorist organisations. CMF regularly use air bourn facilities including Scan Eagle, ships helicopters as well as support from fixed wing aircraft across the region in order to identify potentially illegal activity.
- CTF-150 Flag Ship FS Var gives medical assistance to local crew
- RCMD Boarding operations –
During the operations, six vessels were found to be transporting illegal drugs of heroin. Initial testing has shown the heroin is very pure. The higher quality may indicate a change in drug trafficking tactics being employed across the region.
Four of the six vessels that were discovered to be transporting heroin were boarded and seized by the boarding team of HMAS Newcastle. The boarding team of HMNZS Te Kaha found the remaining two cargos of heroin. These seizures marked the first of their kind for a New Zealand Ship working as part of CMF.