Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Ballarat has intercepted 2.6 tonnes of illicit drugs while conducting a patrol in international waters in the Arabian Sea, bringing the vessel’s number of narcotics interdictions to nine since being deployed from Australia.
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The seizures included about 2.5 tonnes of hashish and 135 kilograms of heroin, and were discovered in two vessels suspected of illegal activity last week.
The vessels, known as dhows, were exhibiting signs of suspicious activity and were subsequently boarded and inspected by the crew of HMAS Ballarat.
“From the operations room, to our helicopter aircrew and the bridge and boarding teams, it’s a whole ship effort in identifying and closing in on the vessel,” Commanding Officer HMAS Ballarat, Commander Paul Johnson said.
“Following boarding and after lengthy inspections of both dhows, narcotics were found to be hidden on board.
“The drugs were seized and transferred back to HMAS Ballarat for the appropriate testing and destruction.”
Since her departure from Australia in October last year, Ballarat has seized over nine tonnes of hashish and 1.4 tonnes of heroin, with a total estimated value of $900 million.
“These seizures follow a period of routine maintenance in Bahrain, proving that the men and women who serve on Ballarat continue to retain their focus and operate as a highly effective team,” CMDR Johnson said.
“We are continuing our mission in support of the Combined Maritime Forces, and our contribution restricts the freedom of movement for drug smugglers through boardings and seizure of illicit substances.”
Ballarat is the 67th rotation of an RAN vessel to the Middle East as part of Operation Manitou, which is the Australian government's contribution to international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East region.