Royal Australian Navy nets huge illegal drug shipment in the Middle East

Published on Department of Defence (author), LSIS Tom Gibson (photographer)

Topic(s): Operations, Operation MANITOU, HMAS Warramunga (F152), Drug interdiction

HMAS Warramunga's boarding team prepare to board a vessel of interest, subsequently finding narcotics onboard.  (photo: LSIS Tom Gibson)
HMAS Warramunga's boarding team prepare to board a vessel of interest, subsequently finding narcotics onboard.
The crew of the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Warramunga have spent the Christmas season hard at work, spending nearly three days seizing almost eight tonnes of hashish and 69 kilograms of heroin from drug smugglers while conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea.
Warramunga intercepted and boarded three suspect vessels between 27 and 29 December 2017, in an operation planned and coordinated by the Combined Maritime Forces’ Combined Task Force 150 which is currently commanded by Australia—supported by a combined Australian-Canadian staff. 
The illegal drug haul is the largest quantity of hashish seized by an Australian ship on Middle East maritime security operations with the overall haul estimated to be valued at around AUD$415 million.
This calculation is a based on the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Illicit Drug Data Report 2015–16 figures for Cannabis Resin (Hashish) at $50 per gram and Heroin at $300,000 per kilogram. The purity of heroin has not been determined.
Commanding Officer Warramunga, Commander Dugald Clelland, said the operation was the culmination of months of hard work by the ship’s company.
“The crew prepared extensively for a task like this and we were able to employ our helicopter and boarding crews to locate and board three suspect vessels.
“A thorough search by the boarding parties uncovered a large quantity of hashish and heroin intended for distribution around the world,” Commander Clelland said. 
Commander of Australian Forces in the Middle East, Major General John Frewen, said the operation was a great credit to the professionalism, determination and dedication of the crew and would contribute to a more secure region.
“These drug seizures support Australia's long-term mission to ensure maritime security and stability in the region.
“This operation will impact on the flow of narcotics around the world and the use of drug money to fund extremist organisations,” Major General Frewen said.
Australian commander of CTF-150, Commodore Mal Wise, said the three-ship haul of narcotics was a reflection of the capability that Warramunga brings to the operation.
“Coordination of this complex operation at sea demonstrates the effectiveness of the Combined Maritime Force coalition and the close cooperation of many organisations that is required to achieve success in such a mission,” Commodore Wise said.
The illegal drugs were transferred to Warramunga for later disposal at sea.
Warramunga is deployed to Operation MANITOU in the Middle East Region for the third time, as part of Joint Task Force 633 and is the 66th rotation of an individual Royal Australian Navy ship in the region since 1990. 
Operation MANITOU is the current name for the Australian Government's contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East Region.
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