HMAS Melbourne personnel have completed a fourth successful drug seizure after seizing more than 100 kilograms of heroin from a fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean.
The ship’s boarding party completed a thorough search of the vessel on 26 December and discovered 118kg of drugs hidden inside which was subsequently transported to the Royal Australian Navy frigate for further analysis and disposal.
Specialised equipment onboard Melbourne identified the drugs as high grade heroin which is valued at approximately $108.8 million based on Australian Crime Commission figures.
Commodore Jaimie Hatcher, the commander of the joint Australian/Canadian Combined Task Force 150, who directed the mission, said the boarding reinforces the commitment and capability of Navy personnel who deploy to the region.
“This latest seizure is testament to the professionalism of HMAS Melbourne’s crew and the Royal Australian Navy in general,” he said.
“The message here to smugglers who try to make a profit from running drugs for terrorists is simple – we will pursue you.”
Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston, said the latest seizure took the total drugs seized by Royal Australian Navy ships in the Middle East to more than five tonnes in the past two years.
“The Navy personnel deployed to the Middle East are on duty around the clock and everyday of the week and continue to do a fantastic job.
"Their commitment is again demonstrated over this year’s Christmas period,” he said.
Since starting operational duties in September 2015, Melbourne has conducted four successful seizures of illegal narcotics totalling more than 900 kilograms.
“This latest seizure demonstrates our national commitment to eliminating the funding sources of terrorism.
"This event included the participation of the Australian-led Combined Task Force 150 that commands the operation down to the individual ship that carried it out.”
Melbourne is conducting maritime security operations with the multinational Combined Maritime Forces. The ship’s operations encompass the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf during her deployment in the Middle East region.
Under one of several task groups assigned to the combined force, Melbourne undertakes maritime security patrols in the region to counter maritime-related terrorism and to intercept the trafficking of drugs and illicit cargoes that help fund international terrorist activities.
This is Melbourne’s eighth deployment to the region and the 61st for the Royal Australian Navy since the Gulf War in 1991.
She will be replaced by HMAS Darwin on station. HMAS Darwin departs Sydney on 30 December for the Middle East.