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HMAS Ballarat seizes more narcotics in Middle East

Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Ballarat has seized two tonnes of hashish, worth about $100 million in street value, during a boarding operation in the Arabian Sea.

The boarding was conducted by the Combined Task Force 150 in international waters, under the direction of the Combined Maritime Forces as part of Operation Manitou.

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“Our training, equipment and commitment to the job at hand makes for a very effective boarding team,” Boarding Officer Lieutenant Lachlan Turner said.

“We continue to ensure the same high standard on each and every occurrence.

The ship as a whole, is very proud of our achievements to disrupt the trafficking of drugs and promote a safer maritime environment.”

The boarding operation was conducted after the "suspicious behaviour" of a fishing vessel, with a team discovering 100 hessian bags of hashish on board, which were then transferred and destroyed by Ballarat.

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It's the frigate's sixth seizure of narcotics during her deployment to the Middle East, after departing Fleet Base West in Rockingham in October 2018.

So far, Ballarat has seized and destroyed about 1.2 tonnes of heroin and 5.2 tonnes of hashish.

In January, Ballarat conducted a similar operation on a fishing vessel, seizing more than 3.1 tonnes of hashish.

"The seizure is a reflection of the continued trade in illegal narcotics, which has the potential to fund terrorist groups across the region," Commanding Officer of HMAS Ballarat, Commander Paul Johnson, said following that operation.

"HMAS Ballarat is contributing to the Australian government’s mission to ensure Middle East regional maritime security. Ballarat and her crew remain ready to continue that mission during our deployment on Operation Manitou."

Operation Manitou is the government's contribution to "support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East".

Defence said, "An enhanced security environment ensures Australia's safe and open access to the region while fostering trade and commerce."

HMAS Ballarat seizes more narcotics in Middle East
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