HMAS Ballarat continues illicit drug seizures in the MER

This article has a video attachmentPublished on Department of Defence (author), LSIS Bradley Darvill (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, HMAS Ballarat (F155), Drug interdiction

HMAS Ballarat's boarding party closes on a suspicious dhow for a boarding which resulted in the seizure of approximately two and a half tonnes of illicit drugs. (photo: LSIS Bradley Darvill)
HMAS Ballarat's boarding party closes on a suspicious dhow for a boarding which resulted in the seizure of approximately two and a half tonnes of illicit drugs.

Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Ballarat has intercepted another 2.6 tonnes of illicit drugs while conducting a patrol in international waters in the Arabian Sea.

The seizures, including approximately 2.5 tonnes of hashish and 135kg of heroin, were discovered in two vessels suspected of illegal activity on the 5 and 7 May 2019.

The vessels, known as dhows, were exhibiting signs of suspicious activity and were subsequently boarded and inspected by the crew of HMAS Ballarat.

Commanding Officer of HMAS Ballarat, Commander Paul Johnson, said the seizure was indicative of a highly professional team with well-rehearsed and well-executed plans.

“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.” Commander Johnson said.

“Following the boardings and after lengthy inspections of both dhows, narcotics were found to be hidden on board.

“The drugs were seized and transferred back to Ballarat for the appropriate testing and destruction.”

 

The two seizures brings the total number of narcotics interdictions by HMAS Ballarat to nine over the period of her current deployment.

During this time, Ballarat has seized over 9 tonnes of hashish and approximately 1.4 tonnes of heroin.

The total value of drugs seized by Ballarat since her departure from Australia in October last year now exceeds an estimated AUD$900 million*.

“These boardings 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,” Commander 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 the conduct of boardings and seizure of any illicit substances.”

Currently deployed on Operation MANITOU, Ballarat is the 67th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy vessel to the region since 1990.

Operation MANITOU is the Australian Government's contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East Region (MER).

Additional imagery is available on the Navy Image Gallery: http://images.navy.gov.au/S20191142.

*Note: This calculation is a based on the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Illicit Drug Data Report 2015–16 figures for Cannabis Resin (Hashish) @ AUD$50,000 per kilo (p215), and Heroin @ AUD$300,000 per kilo (p216).