A Royal Navy warship seized over £10 million of narcotics and aided a merchant vessel in three incidents in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf.
Over the weekend, HMS Lancaster conducted searches on two suspect boats for 12 hours and worked closely with the US Navy to support a merchant vessel reporting harassment.
The Type 23 frigate captured over seven tons of heroin, hashish, and methamphetamine across two operations in the Indian Ocean while on a security patrol of the region where she was deployed on a long-term mission.
In the first call as part of a dawn mission, the vessel’s specialist Royal Marines Boarding team discovered 3.5 tons of narcotics on tracking down a suspect ship since the morning’s early hours.
That evening, the vessel’s Wildcat helicopter was able to spot another craft, and the boarding team promptly sprang into action to seize an additional 3.7 tons and complete the double haul.
The latest captures have come through after Lancaster seized hashish worth approximately £2.5 million in the previous month.
Tom Johnson, the vessel’s Commanding Officer, said he was proud of the team for their efforts to execute two boardings, especially under challenging conditions, within 12 hours.
This comes less than a day after the conclusion of an intense phase of maritime security operations in the waters of the Straits of Hormuz. It was a huge team success, assimilating the team’s efforts with those of a range of international support organizations who have worked endlessly for such a result.
After the first drug bust, samples had been collected, and the drugs, with a UK wholesale value of approximately £5.5 million, had been destroyed.
During boarding operations, there had been indications that the vessel had embarked on its journey from Iran’s coast before collecting the drugs from another ship at sea.
With a seizure complete, it wasn’t long before Lancaster was again called upon – this time with her Wildcat helicopter spotting the suspected boat.
The Wildcat had been patrolling surrounding seas serving as the vessel’s eyes when they called in suspicious movements. The helicopter is one of the several tools Lancaster can use to conduct operations while at sea.
The advanced tool can relay real-time information to the ship’s control centre for the Commanding Officer to make more informed decisions.
As the sun set over the Indian Ocean, the frigate’s boarding team, having just reset from the earlier boarding, sprang into action to do it again.
A significant quantity of packages was discovered on the suspect ship and was confirmed to be hashish.
About 376 bags were recovered, weighing about 3.7 tons and with a UK wholesale value of more than £4 million. The second haul indicates that HMS Lancaster has successfully prevented almost 10.4 tons of narcotics from reaching the streets in 2023.
Captain Will Paston, the Deputy UK Maritime Component Commander in Bahrain, added that tactical proficiency, technical expertise, steadfast professionalism, and investigative thoroughness have been clear throughout the boarding process.
The seizures directly impacted the countless hours of untiring dedication by HMS Lancaster and the greater supporting team based in Bahrain.
Lancaster later collaborated closely with aircraft from the US Navy to offer overwatch for a merchant vessel, which had reported harassment by small vessels. Lancaster’s crew members launched the Wildcat helicopter to carefully assess the situation and provide a real-time feed to the vessel’s Commanding Officer. The small craft dispersed, and the merchant vessel could continue without hassle.
The vessel is part of the UK’s presence in the Middle East and is on a three-year mission to work with allies to boost maritime security and counter illegal activities.
References: walesonline, Royal Navy
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