FROM January 23 to 31 2019, Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 conducted Focused Operation (Op) Marhaba in the Northern Arabian Sea. The operation saw maritime assets from Pakistan, United Kingdom, Australia, France, and the United States working under direct CTF 150 command, which is currently led by the Canadian Armed Forces, and supported by the Royal Australian Navy.
The operation focused on maritime security with the primary aim of disrupting the transport of illegal narcotics in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, an area known as the “Hash Highway.’ The profit from this illegal activity is understood to be a source of funding for terrorist organisations. The mission was a resounding success, with the coalition partners seizing over 3,000 kg of illegal narcotics.
The Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Ballarat seized and destroyed 2,065 kg of hashish and 340 kg of heroin during two boarding operations on January 28 and 29. Not to be outdone, on January 31, French Ship Cassard seized and destroyed 667 kg of heroin following the boarding of a dhow suspected of carrying illicit narcotics.
Commodore Darren Garnier, Royal Canadian Navy, Commander CTF 150 said: “It was mission success for Op Marhaba. We fostered cooperation with regional nations and coalition partners, enhanced information sharing and, most importantly, applied further pressure on terrorism funding derived from sea-borne smuggling activities. Our success would not have been possible without our coalition partners, demonstrating interoperability and the strength of our enduring CMF partnership.”
Captain Leif Maxfield, Deputy Commander CTF 150, said: “The success of this operation demonstrates how the multi-national framework of CMF enables units to seamlessly come together and deliver a powerful effect to support regional maritime security. The staff and ships’ companies involved working tirelessly to achieve coordinated interdictions, boardings, and seizures. ‘Bravo Zulu’ (Navy for well done), to all who participated and supported CTF 150 in achieving this important mission.”
CTF 150 have been successful in directing the interception of illegal drugs in the region. Since taking command of CTF 150 on December 6, 2018 the Task Force has overseen nine drug seizures, totaling over 17,000 kg of illegal narcotics seized and destroyed to date.
Through maritime security operations, regional engagements, and capacity building activities, CTF 150 works to deter and deny terrorist organizations the use of benefits from using the high seas for smuggling illicit cargo including narcotics, UN embargoed weapons, and Somalian charcoal.
Combined Maritime Forces is composed of thirty three nations and has three principal task forces: Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, which conducts counter-terrorism and maritime security operations; CTF 151, which conducts counter piracy operations; and CTF 152, which conducts maritime security operations in the Gulf.