LITTLE over a week after command of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF150) passed to a UK-led team, Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Warramunga has had yet another run of drug busts at sea, this time three busts in three days.

Warramunga has now achieved 16 drugs busts, seizing nearly six thousand kilograms of hashish in three days as she continues to conduct Maritime Security Operations in the Indian Ocean.

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Leading Seaman Timothy Wilson passes down a bag of narcotics from the drug smuggling dhow to Warramunga’s RIB.

CTF150 headquarters is currently commanded by Commodore Steve Moorhouse OBE of the Royal Navy. His staff is multinational, featuring not just members of the UK’s Royal Navy, but also France’s Marine National, the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy. This demonstrates the multinational resolve to counter maritime-based terrorist activities.

On 3 June 2018, following the identification of a suspicious vessel, HMAS Warramunga requested authority from Commander CTF150 to perform a boarding.  A carefully conducted search lasting several hours later revealed that the vessel was carrying an illegal cargo of hashish weighing in at approximately 3253 kilograms.

This was followed the next day (4 June 2018) by a further seizure of 2593 kilograms of hashish, after a separate suspicious vessel was boarded and searched by a team from HMAS Warramunga, again following authorization from Commander CTF150.  In this case, the vessel had been identified by HMAS Warramunga’s own embarked Seahawk ‘Romeo’ helicopter.

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Warramunga’s Bosun’s Mate, AB Luke Clare manhandles a bag of hashish for disposal.

Finally, on 5 June 2018, HMAS Warramunga closed on a third vessel, where a further 40 kilograms of hashish was seized.  This brought the total amount of hashish seized in this three-day period to 5,886 kilograms. In all three cases, the seized illegal narcotics were destroyed by the crew of HMAS Warramunga.

Disrupting the flow of narcotics across the Indian Ocean is a key part of CTF150’s mission to prevent illicit activity on the high seas and ensure that freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce can be maintained.  Furthermore, it shows CTF150 can, and does, contribute to undermining the capabilities of terrorist organizations by starving them of the funding necessary for them to conduct their attacks.

Commodore Moorhouse, Commander CTF150, said: “Notwithstanding the change of command, it remains business as usual for CTF150 as we continue our important and enduring mission to ensure that the Western Indian Ocean remains the sole preserve of legitimate seafarers.  CTF150’s resolve is as strong as ever and HMAS Warramunga’s continued success in seizing narcotics, with her total now standing at 16 successful interdictions, is a testament to the determination and professionalism of her Ship’s Company”.