HMAS Toowoomba seizes major heroin haul worth $A155 million

Published on LEUT Debra Holland (author), LSIS James Whittle (photographer)

HMAS Toowoomba’s boarding party search a dhow as part of their mission to disrupt the funding of international terrorism and piracy. (photo: LSIS James Whittle )
HMAS Toowoomba’s boarding party search a dhow as part of their mission to disrupt the funding of international terrorism and piracy.

HMAS Toowoomba has intercepted a vessel carrying approximately 388 kilograms of heroin in international waters off the east coast of Africa. 

The drug seizure on 17 November 2014 was part of a determined multi-national campaign to disrupt drug smuggling in the Indian Ocean, profits from which provide funding for known terrorist organisations.

The heroin, with an estimated Australian street value of $155 million, was subsequently destroyed.

Toowoomba’s Commanding Officer, Commander Catherine Hayes, said the successful drug interdiction was a direct result of excellent intelligence and a well-executed search plan developed in collaboration with Australia’s international partners in the Combined Maritime Force. 

HMAS Toowoomba's narcotic disposal team registers the 388kg heroin haul on the flight deck after it was seized from a Jelbut Dhow during Operation MANITOU.

HMAS Toowoomba's narcotic disposal team registers the 388kg heroin haul on the flight deck after it was seized from a Jelbut Dhow during Operation MANITOU.

“Our Pakistani colleagues at Combined Task Force 150 and Combined Maritime Force worked with us to develop a plan that resulted in Toowoomba successfully recovering the heroin,” Commander Hayes said.

“The Combined Maritime Force teams ashore and on Toowoomba provided key pieces of the puzzle that led to this intercept," she said.

Lieutenant Neil Partridge, one of Toowoomba’s boarding officers, said the team executed an efficient boarding and search of the suspect vessel.

“The whole team came together to achieve a fantastic result.  The smugglers go to considerable lengths to conceal their cargo and it is a whole ship effort to exploit intelligence and really focus our search efforts," he said.

This is the second significant drug haul for Toowoomba after the warship seized more than 5.6 tonnes of cannabis resin worth $280 million hidden onboard a dhow in the same region on 18 September.

Toowoomba is currently deployed as part of Operation MANITOU, Australia's contribution to the international effort to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East Region.

Leading Seaman Clearance Diver Jonathon Crawford and Petty Officer Boatswain Craig Phelps start the disposal process of a 388kg heroin haul which was discovered on a Jelbut Dhow and seized during boarding operations on Operation MANITOU.

Leading Seaman Clearance Diver Jonathon Crawford and Petty Officer Boatswain Craig Phelps start the disposal process of a 388kg heroin haul which was discovered on a Jelbut Dhow and seized during boarding operations on Operation MANITOU.