On 18 January, less than two weeks after their first drug bust of 2020, French Ship (FS) COURBET made drug bust number two whilst operating in direct support of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150).

The narcotics find was a case of third time lucky for FS Courbet, who had conducted three boardings in 24 hours. Over 3000 kg of hashish was discovered on the dhow in the Gulf of Oman, with an estimated regional wholesale value of over $1,500,000 US dollars.

Using their shipborne helicopter, FS COURBET identified and tracked a suspicious dhow sailing in their area of operations. A boarding team, including their drug detecting dog, was dispatched in COURBET’s Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) to search the vessel, with significant results.

Since Australia assumed command of CTF 150 in December with a staff from the Royal Australian, Royal Canadian and Royal New Zealand navies, FS COURBET has been a key enabler in CTF 150’s mission to disrupt terrorist organisations and their related illegal activities by restricting their freedom of manoeuvre in the maritime domain.

The activities of CTF 150 are a critical part of global counter-terrorism efforts, as terrorist organisations are denied a risk-free method of conducting operations or moving personnel, weapons or income-generating narcotics and charcoal.

Not every boarding results in a seizure, but CTF 150’s persistent activity sends the message that there are forces in the Arabian Sea committed to protecting and promoting security and stability.

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FS COURBET has conducted five boardings in the last six weeks, with three netting 8 tonnes of hashish with an estimated regional wholesale value of $4.1 million US dollars.

In December 2019, Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) DEFENDER of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, working in direct support of CTF 150, also seized 131 kg of crystal methamphetamine. The haul had an estimated regional wholesale value of over $280,000 US dollars, the largest seizure of crystal meth in the Combined Maritime Forces’ history.

Of course, the regional wholesale value is small by comparison to the street value of these drugs should they reach the streets of Europe.

“COURBET continues to impress,” said Commodore Ray Leggatt, Royal Australian Navy, Commander of CTF 150. “With this seizure, we are again demonstrating to organized criminals and terrorists that they cannot manoeuvre freely here, they cannot conduct their illegitimate trade without considerable risk, and that CTF 150 will continue its mission to promote security and stability in this region.”

CTF 150 is one of three task forces operating under Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a multinational naval partnership that exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across approximately 3.2 million square miles of international waters encompassing some of the world’s most important shipping lanes. The 33 nations that comprise CMF share intelligence, assets and capabilities.

Commodore Ray Leggatt concluded “FS COURBET’s action is a continuation of relationships built in Combined Maritime Forces and a demonstration of how many nations, working together, can make an impact.”