Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Melbourne, working for the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) in the Middle East, has made another seizure of illegal narcotics off the coast of East Africa.
The latest haul of 151 kilograms of high purity heroin has an estimated value of approximately US$80 million. It is HMAS Melbourne’s second significant drugs seizure during her current deployment, working as part of the Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, under the command of Rear Admiral Moazzam Ilyas from the Pakistan Navy. It brings the total weight of heroin seized by HMAS Melbourne during her two months with CTF 150 to more than 578 kilograms.
Following surveillance, it was suspected that a vessel situated off the coast of Tanzania might be engaged in unlawful activity and so HMAS Melbourne conducted a routine boarding of the dhow. Interviews with the dhow’s crew raised further suspicion that the vessel could be involved in the smuggling of narcotics.
Based on the information gathered, CMF approved a search of the vessel. A thorough search by HMAS Melbourne’s boarding team led to the discovery of heroin.
Commanding Officer of HMAS Melbourne, Commander Bill Waters, said the smugglers had gone to considerable efforts to conceal the drugs. He said: “On first inspection there were no obvious signs of smuggling. However, our boarding teams are trained to a very high standard and with determination and diligence we were able to locate and extract the narcotics from hidden compartments within the vessel.”
Members of the Ship’s Company in HMAS Melbourne inspect 151 kilograms of heroin discovered in a vessel off the Tanzanian coast.
Once the search was complete, the bags were moved to the flight deck of HMAS Melbourne for testing which confirmed the substance was heroin. The seized drugs were subsequently destroyed at sea and in accordance with procedures, the vessel and crew were released and allowed to continue their journey.
Rear Admiral Ilyas acknowledged the relentless efforts of HMAS Melbourne, saying that: “CTF 150 remains determined to combat the flow of funding to international terrorist organizations. This most recent seizure by HMAS Melbourne is CMF’s tenth successful narcotics seizure this year and it comes as the result of the tenacity of the ship’s command team. Locating a drug smuggling dhow in a large maritime area of over two million square miles is a real challenge.”
Commander Waters said the seizure would make a significant impact. He said: “We are not only stopping the drugs from reaching communities, we are also restricting the funding for international terrorism, which comes from the illegal trade of these types of narcotics.”