French Marine Nationale ships have achieved an impressive five seizures of illicit drugs in just six days, whilst participating in a counter-narcotics focused operation under the command of Combined Maritime Forces’ (CMF) Canadian-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.

Boarding teams from the FS Nivôse approach a suspicious dhow leading to the capture of 1,494 lbs of methamphetamine and heroin, March 19, 2021 (Photo: Marine Nationale).

The noteworthy successful run began on March 19, when the French frigate FS Nivôse intercepted a high-value shipment of 809 lbs (367 kg) of methamphetamine and 685 lbs (311 kg) of heroin. This was swiftly followed by two concurrent counter-narcotics operations on March 22 by FS Tonnerre and FS Surcouf, which resulted in interdictions of over 6,600 lbs (3,000 kg), and 1,300 lbs (600 kg) of hashish respectively.

Barely 48 hours later, helicopter carrier Tonnerre was back at it with a flourish, seizing a massive 7,055 lbs (3,200kg) of hashish. A concurrent counter-narcotic success at sea by FS Nivôse followed quickly behind, with the crew interdicting a further 2,425 lbs (1,100kg) of the drug.  

Nearly 1,500 lbs of captured methamphetamine and heroin shown on the flight deck of FS Nivôse, March 19, 2021 (Photo: Marine Nationale).
Boarding teams from the FS Tonnerre capture 6,600 lbs of hashish on board a dhow in the Arabian Sea, March 22, 2021 (Photo: Marine Nationale).

All three ships were operating in the Arabian Sea in direct support of CTF-150 at the time of the seizures, totaling 18,911 lbs (8,578 kg), which have a combined estimated wholesale value of more than $16.66 million.

Captain Frédéric Barbe, commanding officer of Nivôse said, “The involvement of the Marine Nationale at the forefront of the counter-narcotics operations in the Arabian Sea directly undermines those same terrorist organizations that threaten our interests, and our citizens, in both the Middle East and Africa.”

“The most recent French accomplishments are nothing but the result of an intense teamwork from the direct coordination within the Task Group “Jeanne d’Arc” to the paramount involvement of both Canadian-led Combined Task Force 150, and Combined Maritime Forces, as a whole. We act as a powerful coalition that, working behind the scenes, enables us to achieve success at sea, providing us with its unrivalled knowledge of the area.”

Crew from the FS Tonnerre with their capture of 6,600 lbs of hashish, March 22, 2021 (Photo: Marine Nationale).

These latest seizures increase the tally of successful counter-narcotics operations for CTF-150 to 10 since assuming command in late January 2021. CTF-150, one of three CMF task forces, has an ongoing mission to disrupt criminal and terrorist organizations, including by clamping-down on the illegal trade of drugs and weapons. 

The boarding team of FS Surcouf with 1,300 lbs of interdicted hashish, March 22, 2021 (Photo: Marine Nationale).

Commodore Dan Charlebois, commander of CTF-150 said, “The French Navy continues to provide outstanding support to Combined Maritime Forces, and more specifically, Combined Task Force 150.  The French arrived in the area of operations, in all respects, ready to contribute to regional maritime security, as evidenced by their seizures, almost immediately after arriving on station. The skill and professionalism demonstrated by their crews are in keeping with their predecessor, Jean Bart, which is a great sign for CTF-150!”

There is little doubt that focused maritime security operations like these are an effective way to deprive criminal and terrorist groups of a vital revenue stream. The success of this operation is a testament to the great collaboration between the Marine Nationale, the Royal Canadian Navy, and CMF, which has made a significant impact on illegal drug trafficking, directly contributing to enhancing maritime security in the Middle East.

The boarding team of the FS Tonnerre prepares to search a suspicious dhow in the Arabian Sea. The resulting interdiction seized 7,055 lbs of hashish, March 24, 2021 (Photo: Marine Nationale).