Less than three weeks into its deployment, the FS Surcouf has made its first two narcotics seizures, with back to back boardings yielding around 400kg of heroin.
Early in the morning on 28 April Surcouf’s boarding team began their search of the first dhow – a process that takes time. The team must be methodical so as not to miss or overlook any part of the ship, a particularly difficult task as another suspicious vessel was just over the horizon. Over the course of the next four days they continued to search the vessel, finding multiple stashes and locating a total of around 200 kg of heroin.
Image: Members of FS Surcouf’s boarding team with part of the seizure
Key to the interdiction was the support provided by the Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The P-3 combs the CTF 150 Area of Operation that spans over two million square miles. It narrows the odds for ships like FS Surcouf to intercept and board dhows across an ocean expanse twice as large as the Mediterranean Sea.
The first boarding and seizure complete, Surcouf began to track down the second suspicious dhow, locating the vessel and beginning the second boarding on the 3 May. By the end of the day almost 200kg of heroin had been seized bringing the total over the six days and two boardings to around 400kg. At a value of over $US155 Million the seizure deals a significant blow to smugglers and the terrorist organisations that use narcotics to fund their activities.
Commander CTF150 Rear Admiral Lebas said: “Surcouf and her boarding team showed great skill and tenacity in conducting long and meticulous searches of these dhows in arduous conditions. This seizure once again demonstrates that ships operating in support of the Combined Maritime Forces Combined Task Force 150, are removing significant quantities of narcotics from African and European markets, and so preventing criminal and terrorist organisations benefitting from the trade.”
Image: FS Surcouf and the boarding party on board a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB), flank one of the intercepted Dhows.
Established in 2002, CTF150 is primarily focused on disrupting terrorist organisations and their activities by denying them the freedom of manoeuvre in the maritime domain. In collaboration with international and regional maritime security partners, CTF150 teams have seized and destroyed billions of dollars in drugs and captured thousands of weapons ensuring they are no longer available to organisations that would cause others harm.
The French/UK-led CTF150 is the operationalisation of French-UK naval co-operation under the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force framework, and includes staff from Belgium, Italy and Australia, exercising command over ships and aircraft from several CMF participating nations.