Anzac frigate seizes another massive haul of illicit drugs

HMAS Warramunga’s boarding party conduct a boarding during a narcotics interdiction operation. Image via Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Warramunga has seized around eight tonnes of hashish valued at approximately $400 million during operations in international waters of the Arabian Sea as part of operation MANITOU.

The drugs were seized when the Anzac Class frigate intercepted two vessels.

The latest seizure takes the frigate's haul to 19.5 tonnes of hashish and 1.5 tonnes of heroin, valued in excess of $1.43 billion* since deploying to the Middle East in November 2017.

On 3 March, Warramunga’s Seahawk helicopter crew detected a vessel of interest during surveillance operations. A boarding party searched the vessel, uncovering 4.1 tonnes of illicit cargo. The Seahawk crew then detected a second vessel of interest and the subsequent boarding and search operation resulted in the seizure of an additional 3.9 tonnes of illegal narcotics.

Commanding Officer of HMAS Warramunga Commander Dugald Clelland said he has been continually impressed with the crew’s determination and professionalism.

"This has been a high tempo deployment for HMAS Warramunga but we have been fortunate in seeing significant quantities of narcotics not reach their final destination as a result of the efforts of the crew and the CTF 150 team," CMDR Clelland said.

"Preventing the movement of these narcotics not only potentially saves lives; it also deprives terrorist and other criminal organisations of $1.43 billion in revenue, which allows us to degrade the effectiveness of these organisations."

The Commander of Joint Task Force 633, Rear Admiral Jaimie Hatcher, AM, said the achievements of Warramunga and her crew reflect a longstanding legacy of success by the RAN in the region.

"This is the 66th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy vessel in the region since 1990 and the continual successes of Warramunga during her rotation builds upon the foundation of commitment our Navy has shown to the region for nearly three decades," RADM Hatcher said.

The narcotics were transferred to Warramunga and will be disposed of at sea.

Operation MANITOU is the Australian government's contribution to support 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 Combined Maritime Forces. Australia assumed command the Combined Task Force 150 in December 2017.

Summary of vessels interdicted with drugs by Warramunga in the 66th rotation:
• 27-29 December 2017: hashish, 8 tonnes; heroin, 69 kilograms (three vessels interdicted over this period)
• 3 January 2018: hashish, 3.5 tonnes
• 7 January 2018: heroin, 111 kilograms
• 24 January 2018: heroin, 915 kilograms
• 1 February 2018: heroin, 414 kilograms

*Note: This calculation is a based on the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Illicit Drug Data Report 2015-16 figures for cannabis resin (hashish) @ AUD$50 per gram (p215) and heroin @ AUD$300,000 per kilogram (p216).

Anzac frigate seizes another massive haul of illicit drugs
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