Combined Task Force 150 French-led task force continues to disrupt terrorism by suppressing the flow of drugs across the Indian Ocean and beyond.
Patrolling the Indian Ocean as part of CTF150, an international coalition of warships with a mission to deny terrorist organisations the freedom to move people, weapons and drugs in the region, HMS Monmouth identified a dhow acting suspiciously. The ship dispatched its boarding team, which, following an extensive search, found and seized a total of 455kg of cannabis resin and 266kg of heroin.
This drug bust comes hot on the heels of a recent seizure of heroin by the French frigate Surcouf which brought in 400kg of heroin, worth around £120m on the streets.
“Such a substantial seizure of drugs will deal a significant blow to the international narcotics trade which is known to provide funding for terrorist organisations,” said Commander Ian Feasey, HMS Monmouth’s Commanding Officer.
The success demonstrates both the commitment of the nations that contribute to Combined Task Force 150 to fighting terrorism, and the strength of the partnership between the UK and France, as the Task Force is currently commanded by French Navy Rear Admiral, Olivier Lebas, who is supported by a combined French-UK staff located in Bahrain.
Admiral Lebas said: “This combined French-UK staff demonstrates strong naval co-operation working under the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force framework set up by the Lancaster House Accord of 2010 signed by London and Paris.”
What had started as a routine day on patrol became suddenly more interesting when the ship spotted a fishing dhow operating in an area not normally known for its fishing grounds. Closer investigation suggested that the vessel was worthy of further attention.
“The activity and position of the vessel immediately raised suspicion and we reacted quickly to ensure that the dhow was unable to destroy any evidence or contraband” said Commander Feasey, adding: “Once the vessel was secured it was just a matter of time before a fingertip search of the vessel to identify its illegal cargo bore fruit.”
HMS Monmouth employed her two boarding teams; ‘Green Team’ made up of Royal Marines from 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group and ‘Blue Team’ Royal Navy search specialists. A 60 hour search identified hidden compartments on board.
Lieutenant Alison Ross, one of HMS Monmouth’s boarding officers, said: “After such a long search I had doubts we would find anything, but the reactions of the crew to our activity in certain areas was enough to convince us that there was illegal cargo” she added: “Eventually the breakthrough was made and we could bring the operation to a close, having successfully put a stop to the progress of the drugs.”
The whole of the Black Duke had to swing into action to support the boarding, Green Team member, Royal Marine Joe Omlo said: “After a couple of long days on board the dhow, it’s a huge win for the lads to have captured such a large amount of drugs. I’m buzzing!”
Having removed 3 tonnes of ice from the freezer, a hidden compartment was found, in which the dhow was hiding 266kg of pure heroin and 455kg of cannabis resin, with a total street value in the UK of around £65million.
Boarding Officer Sub-Lieutenant Chris Miles Royal Navy said: “I really didn’t expect to be involved in such a huge find when I’ve only been on board for 5 days! I’m hugely proud to have been part of the team which has ensured that three quarters of a tonne of drugs has been prevented from ending up on the streets.”
Commander Feasey said: “I am extremely proud of the professionalism, diligence and perseverance of my boarding team to achieve a result in such arduous conditions. This has been an effort by the whole ship’s company and their efforts speak volumes about the Royal Navy’s ability and commitment to preventing illegal activity on the high seas.”
Once all of the drugs had been photographed and assessed by the Royal Navy Police on board HMS Monmouth, the packages were opened and disposed of into the sea, ensuring no profits can be made from them.
The Black Duke will now carry on operating in the Indian Ocean as part of CTF 150, as she continues with her 9 month deployment in the region reinforcing maritime security.