HMAS Darwin intercepts 952kg of drugs in the Middle East

This article has photo gallery Published on Department of Defence Media Release (author), AB Sarah Ebsworth (photographer)

Members of HMAS Darwin intercept a dhow off the coast of Africa.  (photo: ABIS Sarah Ebsworth)
Members of HMAS Darwin intercept a dhow off the coast of Africa.

HMAS Darwin has seized almost one tonne of heroin during three consecutive vessel interceptions off the coast of Africa as part of Operation MANITOU.

Darwin seized approximately 952kg of heroin under the authority of British-led Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) which is responsible for counter-terrorism and maritime security operations within the Middle East Region.

The total haul has a value of close to AUD $800 million based on the Australian Crime Comission Report 2013-2014 when corrected for purity.

With the support of a Combined Maritime Force (CMF) surveillance aircraft, Darwin conducted its first boarding on 21 May which yielded 380kg of drugs after a thorough search of the vessel.

Darwin's helicopter identified a further two suspicious vessels on 22 May and 25 May with subsequent boardings revealing 512kg and 60 kilograms of drugs respectively.

All drugs seized were transferred to Darwin for testing and confirmed as heroin.

Commander Phillip Henry, Commanding Officer Darwin, praised the work of his ship's company during this busy patrol.

"Traffickers constantly try to find new ways to hide cargo, but our boarding parties' training, techniques and equipment evolve and we continue to find and dispose of seriously large quantities of illicit goods," he said.

"The best part about our involvement in these operations is that we are able to remove a significant portion of funding from terrorist organisations.

"With the help of our CMF partners, both at sea and ashore, we have had tremendous success in tracking down suspicious vessels and uncovering drugs hidden away on several of them.

Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston acknowledged the great work of Darwin's ship's company in these latest seizures.

"Darwin's combined efforts under CTF-150 is a good example of how we are improving the overall maritime security, stability and prosperity in the region by denying terrorist organisations their ability to move personnel, weapons or drugs, and obstructing their capacity to raise funds," he said.

"These seizures take the Royal Australian Navy's total of narcotics interdicted to more than four tonnes since the start of Operation MANITOU," Vice Admiral Johnston said.

The seized drugs were disposed at sea in accordance with Australian policy.

HMAS Darwin has completed her fourth patrol under Operation MANITOU; the Australian Government's contribution to the multinational CMF and CTF-150 efforts.

HMAS Darwin is on her seventh deployment to the Middle East Region which is the 62nd rotation of a Royal Australian Navy vessel in the region since 1990.

Note: Figure for value of haul is calculated on the Australian Crime Commission Report 2013-2014. One kilogram of heroin equates to approximately AUD $295000.