Whilst operating in direct support of Combined Task Force 150 in the Indian Ocean, Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) DEFENDER, a United Kingdom Royal Navy destroyer, seized 2,500kg of hashish with an estimated regional wholesale value of around $1.3 million US Dollars.
This was her second significant drugs bust in as many months, as on 19 December she seized and destroyed a record haul of crystal methamphetamine.
Commander Richard Hewitt MBE, Commanding Officer of HMS DEFENDER said “Once again DEFENDER has been able to seize a significant amount of narcotics, reinforcing the Royal Navy’s commitment to ensuring maritime security by disrupting the operations of drug smugglers and terrorists”.
Events unfolded on 30 January when DEFENDER launched her ‘WILDCAT’ shipborne helicopter to begin the search for possible illegitimate marine traffic. Before long, a suspicious dhow was identified and DEFENDER sent a boarding team of Royal Marine Commandos, commanded by Lieutenant Ben Clink RM, to investigate.
Lt Clink RM said “A strong performance from my team once again proved the versatility of the Royal Marines in operating in the maritime environment.”
Once the Royal Marines had secured the dhow, a Royal Navy team followed and searched the vessel for illicit cargo.
It turned out that DEFENDER’s suspicions were warranted as the boarding party discovered 2,500kg of hashish in 119 bags hidden throughout the dhow.
Royal Navy Boarding Officer, Lieutenant Stuart Campbell said “This is yet another example of the Royal Navy putting their first class operational training to use, interrupting narcotic traffickers active in the region.”
DEFENDER’s haul of 131kg of crystal meth in December 2019 was the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) largest ever. It took CMF’s total crystal meth seizures for 2019 to 257kg, compared to only 9kg in 2018. The drug is sharply on the rise in terms of smuggling in the region.
Captain Sean Stewart, Royal New Zealand Navy, Deputy Commander of CTF 150, said “Once again, DEFENDER has done some terrific work and proven to be a high value asset to CTF 150. Following two other successful busts by FS Courbet in 2020, we continue to make an impact on terrorist and criminal organisations in the region, accomplishing CTF 150’s mission of restricting their freedom of manouevre in the maritime domain.”
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.
Australia assumed command of CTF 150 in early December. Australian led, CTF 150’s staff is made up of personnel from the Royal Australian, Royal Canadian, and Royal New Zealand navies.