Anzac frigate seizes nearly $600 million of illegal drugs in two weeks

Parcels of seized narcotics lay on the deck of the smuggling vessel as HMAS Warramunga’s boarding team conduct an illicit cargo seizure during operations in the Middle East. Image via Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

Royal Australian Navy Anzac Class frigate HMAS Warramunga, with support from Australia’s allies, has seized up to $596 million of illegal drugs in one fortnight.

HMAS Warramunga, with support from a UK Royal Navy helicopter, seized more than 3.5 tonnes of illicit narcotics during a night-time operation in the Arabian Sea on 3 January 2018.

Warramunga intercepted and boarded suspect vessel, under the direction of the Combined Maritime Forces’ (CMF) Australian-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 in international waters after the vessel was assessed to be engaged in possible illegal activity.

During the course of the operation, RFA Fort Rosalie’s helicopter provided surveillance allowing Warramunga’s boarding party to locate and board the vessel.
 
The illegal narcotics are estimated to be valued at more than $181 million*. 

The bust came just days after HMAS Warramunga seized illegal drugs from three vessels estimated to be around $415 million*.

The crew of the navy frigate spent nearly three days seizing almost eight tonnes of hashish and 69 kilograms of heroin from drug smugglers while conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea.

Warramunga intercepted and boarded three suspect vessels between 27 and 29 December 2017, in an operation planned and co-ordinated by CMF CTF-150, which is currently commanded by Australia – supported by a combined Australian-Canadian staff.

The illegal drug haul is the largest quantity of hashish seized by an Australian ship on Middle East maritime security operations.

Commanding Officer HMAS Warramunga, Commander Dugald Clelland, said the operation was the culmination of months of hard work by the ship’s company.

“The crew prepared extensively for a task like this and we were able to employ our helicopter and boarding crews to locate and board three suspect vessels," CMDR Clelland said.

"A thorough search by the boarding parties uncovered a large quantity of hashish and heroin intended for distribution around the world."

Commander of Australian Forces in the Middle East, Major General John Frewen, said the operation was a great credit to the professionalism, determination and dedication of the crew and would contribute to a more secure region.

"These drug seizures support Australia's long-term mission to ensure maritime security and stability in the region," MAJGEN Frewen said.

"This operation will impact on the flow of narcotics around the world and the use of drug money to fund extremist organisations."

Australian commander of CTF-150, Commodore Mal Wise, added the three-ship haul of narcotics was a reflection of the capability that HMAS Warramunga brings to the operation.

"Co-ordination of this complex operation at sea demonstrates the effectiveness of the Combined Maritime Force coalition and the close co-operation of many organisations that is required to achieve success in such a mission," CDRE Wise said.

The illegal drugs were transferred to HMAS Warramunga for later disposal at sea.

The total of both seizures is more than 11.5 tonnes of hashish and 69 kilograms of heroin.

Warramunga is currently deployed to the Middle East on Operation MANITOU, Australia’s commitment to maritime security and stability in the region including the CMF. 

A coalition of 32 nations, the CMF conducts maritime security operations to ensure the free flow of legitimate commerce in the region and to deny the use of the high seas to terrorist and illicit non-state actors.

*This calculation is a based on the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Illicit Drug Data Report 2015–16 figures for Cannabis Resin (Hashish) at $50 per gram (p215) and Heroin at $300,000 per kilogram. The purity of heroin has not been determined.

Anzac frigate seizes nearly $600 million of illegal drugs in two weeks
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