RAN frigate seizes $33m of illegal drugs

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Stephanie Pannell (left) passes a bag a seized narcotics to Leading Seaman Physical Training Instructor James Walker during an illicit cargo seizure by HMAS Warramunga on operations in the Middle East. Image via Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Warramunga, has made its third seizure of illegal drugs in just one fortnight, hauling in 111 kilograms of heroin valued at $33 million*.

The operation was carried out in the Arabian Sea on 7 January and has now taken the ship's total seizures in the last two weeks to more than 11.5 tonnes of hashish and 180 kilograms of heroin, bringing the total approximate value to $629 million*.

The operation was carried out under the direction of the Combined Maritime Forces’ (CMF’s) Australian-led Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), after the suspect vessel was assessed to be engaged in possible illegal activity.

Commanding Officer of Warramunga, Commander Dugald Clelland said the ship’s company was very proud of its contribution to the mission in recent weeks.

"This seizure was the result of a complex operation involving thorough analysis of historical information, careful surveillance and hard work by the boarding party," CMDR Clelland said.

Commander of CTF 150, Commodore Mal Wise, RAN, said he was proud of the efforts of the sailors of CTF 150.

"The hard work and dedication of HMAS Warramunga’s company has again been demonstrated by this seizure of narcotics in the Arabian Sea," CDRE Wise said.

"The ongoing success of CTF 150 in interrupting the flow of narcotics in the Middle East region highlights the enduring importance of a naval partnership like the CMF in promoting security in international waters."

After being transferred to Warramunga, the narcotics were disposed of at sea.

The first illegal drug seizure saw Warramunga  seize illegal drugs from three vessels estimated to be around $415 million* between 27 and 29 December 2017 in an operation planned and co-ordinated by CMF and CTF 150, which is currently commanded by Australia — supported by a combined Australian-Canadian staff.

During the second seizure on 3 January, the crew of Warramunga seized more than 3.5 tonnes of illicit narcotics during a night-time operation in the Arabian Sea.

Warramunga intercepted and boarded the suspect vessel, under the direction of the CMF and 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*. 

Warramunga is currently deployed to the Middle East on Operation MANITOU, as part of Australia’s commitment to maritime security and stability in the region, including the CMF. The CMF is a coalition of 32 nations that conducts maritime security operations to ensure the free flow of legitimate commerce in the Middle East 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.

RAN frigate seizes $33m of illegal drugs
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