Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Melbourne, working for the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) in the Middle East successfully intercepted a small cargo vessel, known as a dhow, smuggling 427 kilograms of heroin in the Indian Ocean, on 1 October 2015. The drugs, which have now been destroyed, had an estimated street value of $174 (US) million, a value based on an average purity of 60%, which is the approximate historic average seized in 2014.
HMAS Melbourne was working as part of the Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, under the command of Rear Admiral Moazzam Ilyas from the Pakistan Navy, and became wary of the dhow after it was observed to be operating suspiciously in the international waters of the Indian Ocean. The ship subsequently sent a boarding party via seaboat to conduct a routine boarding.
Interviews with the dhow’s crew raised suspicion that it was potentially involved in some form of illegal activity. CMF approved a search of the vessel, which led to the discovery of approximately 427 kilograms of heroin.
Commander CTF150, Rear Admiral Ilyas said: “The seizure of 427 kilograms of refined heroin and the disruption of other illicit smuggling speaks volumes about the highest professional standards and readiness of the ship’s team to curb the menace of illicit drug trafficking, which is used in support of terrorist networks. The seamless coordination between Headquarters staff, HMAS Melbourne and the significant role of the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, yielded results to help keep this region safe, secure and prosperous. The Combined Maritime Forces are embarked upon a mission to prevent the region being used for narcotics smuggling which funds terrorism, and our team has proven itself equal to the task. The efforts will continue with the same zeal in the future too.”
The drugs were removed from the dhow onto HMAS Melbourne where they were analysed and then disposed of. In accordance with procedures the vessel and crew were released and allowed to continue their journey.
Commander Bill Waters, HMAS Melbourne’s Commanding Officer, said the discovery of the drugs was a significant achievement. “This latest intercept shows our continuing vigilance is essential in the fight against terrorism. The intercept and search was a painstaking process and the entire crew worked tirelessly for a result we can be extremely proud of.”