On 6 March 2018, Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) continued its recent string of success by seizing 132 kgs of heroin. Completing her winning streak, Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Warramunga boarded her third vessel in just 4 days, interdicting over $30 million USD worth of heroin. Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, CMF’s counter-terrorism and maritime security task force seized 12,216 kgs of hashish and 132 kgs of heroin from 3-6 March in the Arabian Sea. This latest haul means that CMF has now seized over 1,600 kgs of heroin, worth over $380 million USD in under 12 weeks.

HMAS Warramunga’s MH 60 Romeo helicopter was conducting routine aerial surveillance in the Arabian Sea when it detected a vessel of interest. HMAS Warramunga approached the dhow in international waters and upon investigation CTF 150 authorised a non-destructive search of the dhow. During that search, the boarding team located 132 kgs of heroin, valued over $30 million USD. On completion of a thorough search, the heroin was catalogued and destroyed safely at sea.

Commander of CTF 150, Commodore Mal Wise, Royal Australian Navy, spoke of the impact that the seizure will have: “The illicit drug trade has had a profound effect on the lives of the people in East Africa. We know that heroin seizures like today’s will have a direct impact on the operations of terrorist organizations at distribution points in East Africa. Removing heroin from circulation reduces the funding resources available for terrorists, which then reduces their ability to inflict suffering on the communities in East Africa.”

CTF 150, as part of CMF, supported by international agencies such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, seeks to disrupt smuggling networks transferring illicit narcotics from Central Asia, through to East Africa. Intercepting narcotics at sea delivers the multipronged effect of denying funding to terrorists and increasing security in the region. The follow on effect of reducing illicit trafficking is a strengthening of local economies leading to increasing social stability in East Africa.

CTF 150 is currently under Australian command, staffed by a combined Canadian and Australian team and supported by assets from Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Since December 2017, multinational assets in support of CMF have seized over 28 tonnes of hashish and 1.6 tonnes of heroin, valued in excess of $1.5 billion USD, street value.

Media note:  *This calculation is based on the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Illicit Drug Data Report 2015–16 figures for Cannabis Resin (Hashish) at $50 AUD /$39 USD per gram (p215) and Heroin at $300,000 AUD / $235,000 USD per kilogram (p 216).