HMAS Melbourne seizes estimated $AUS706 million of drugs in Middle East

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Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Melbourne (F05), Drug interdiction

AUD$706 million dollars of drugs seized by the crew of HMAS Melbourne prior to being destroyed. (photo: ABIS Jayson Tufrey)
AUD$706 million dollars of drugs seized by the crew of HMAS Melbourne prior to being destroyed.

HMAS Melbourne has seized and destroyed hundreds of kilograms of what is believed to be heroin with an estimated street value of $706 million Australian dollars.

A total of 353 kilograms of the substance were uncovered during a boarding operation on a suspected drug smuggling vessel off the coast of Tanzania on 5 February 2014.

The Australian Navy boarding team identified a suspicious substance concealed onboard while conducting a standard sweep of the vessel.

The material was tested onboard the vessel and returned a positive reading for heroin.

Melbourne’s team seized the suspected drugs, took samples and destroyed the remainder.

HMAS Melbourne’s Commanding Officer, Commander Brian Schlegel praised the professionalism of the boarding team and all involved in the operation.

“The whole of Melbourne’s ships company should be proud of our achievements today, which comes near the end of a six month deployment. All members of Melbourne’s ship’s company conducted themselves in a professional manner throughout this boarding operation,” Commander Schlegel said.

This latest seizure demonstrates Australia’s commitment and continuing contribution to the deterrence of terrorism and the promotion of maritime security and stability in the Middle East and Indian Ocean regions.

The Royal Australian Navy’s Guided Missile Frigate, HMAS Melbourne, used her S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter to locate the suspicious vessel off the coast of Tanzania.

Under the command of the Australian-led Combined Task Force 150, operating as part of the 29-nation Combined Maritime Forces, Melbourne was directed to close and board the suspect vessel.

The Australian Commander of Combined Task Force 150, Commodore Daryl Bates, AM, RAN commended Melbourne’s efforts with this, her latest seizure.

Melbourne has once again demonstrated how beneficial Australia’s commitment is to the Indian Ocean region and the fight against international terrorism and violent extremism,” Commodore Bates said.

“During her time with Combined Maritime Forces, she has successfully disrupted a piracy attack, and conducted four successful narcotics seizures, seizing 23.8 kilograms of methamphetamines and now 353 kilograms of heroin.

“These seizures have severely impacted the funding network of those terrorist organisations that rely on these shipments for income. Melbourne’s crew is right to be proud of their achievements,” Commodore Bates said.

HMAS Melbourne is deployed on Operation SLIPPER, on patrol in the Middle East Area of Operations under tasking to the Combined Maritime Forces.

Melbourne’s role, and the role of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, is to conduct maritime security and interdiction operations in support of deterring terrorism and promoting peace and security in the maritime regions of the Middle East and Indian Ocean.

Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20140203.