RAN frigate seizes $274m of heroin

Crew members of HMAS Warramunga lay parcels of seized heroin on the flight deck of the Ship during an operation in the Western Indian Ocean. Image via Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

In a joint counter-narcotics operation, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) seized 915 kilograms of heroin valued in excess of $274 million.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 aircraft detected a suspicious vessel in the western Indian Ocean on 23 January 2018, which was boarded and investigated by the crew of RAN frigate HMAS Warramunga on 24 January.

Over the past two months, Warramunga’s crew has seized and destroyed more than 11.5 tonnes of hashish and over a tonne of heroin, valued in excess of $900 million.* The seizures include:

27-29 December 2018: 8 tonnes of hashish, 69 kilograms of heroin, (three vessels interdicted over this period);
3 January 2018: hashish, 3.5 tonnes;
7 January 2018: heroin, 111 kilograms; and
24 January: heroin, 915 kilograms.

Commander of Australian Defence Force personnel in the Middle East Rear Admiral Jaimie Hatcher said the latest operation highlighted the significant contribution both Australia and New Zealand make to maritime security in the region.

"Warramunga has now interdicted six vessels carrying illegal narcotics since November," RADM Hatcher said.

"This operation highlights the important role played by partner nations, as part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), in increasing maritime security in the Middle East and western Indian Ocean."

Commanding Officer of HMAS Warramunga, Commander Dugald Clelland said the operation was a team effort between close partners.

"The RNZAF P-3 was able to identify the vessel and direct us to a successful boarding resulting in the seizure of a very significant quantity of illegal narcotics," CMDR Clelland said.

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

This is Warramunga’s third deployment to the Middle East region, and is the 66th rotation of a RAN vessel in the region since 1990.

Operation MANITOU is part of the Australian government's contribution to supporting international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East region. Combined Taskforce 150 is one of three task forces operating under CMF. Australia assumed command Combined Task Force 150 in December 2017.

*Note: 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 (p216).

RAN frigate seizes $274m of heroin
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