Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC and Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Melissa Price MP, were joined by family, friends and supporters on the wharf at Fleet Base West on Sunday 14 July 2019 to praise the counter-terrorism efforts of Ballarat’s 200 officers and sailors who seized nearly 20 tonnes of illicit drugs worth an estimated value of AUD$1.41 billion*.
Serving as part of the Combined Maritime Forces, the frigate also seized and destroyed nearly half a million rounds of small arms ammunition and 697 bags of chemical fertiliser, which had a potential use in the manufacture of improvised explosives.
“HMAS Ballarat has played a significant role in promoting safety and security in the Middle East maritime environment by directly reducing the source of funding to terrorist organisations,” Minister Reynolds said.
“Ballarat’s Ship’s Company has worked tirelessly and professionally and we should be proud of their achievements,” Minister Reynolds said.
Minister Price thanked the families for their support while Ballarat spent 260 days deployed patrolling an area from the North Arabian Gulf to the Southern Indian Ocean.
“To the family and friends who are gathered here today, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for your ongoing support over the nine-month deployment,” Minister Price said.
As well as seizing more than a billion dollars of illegal drugs and nearly half a million rounds of ammunition, Ballarat also integrated with two carrier strike groups and participated in several high-end warfighting exercises with the naval forces of the US, UK, France and Gulf Cooperation Council states.
Commanding Officer HMAS Ballarat, Commander Paul Johnson RAN, said the ship’s company worked hard to maintain a high level of operational capability.
“The work on-board Ballarat can be prolonged and arduous and it really is a whole of ship effort to sustain the boarding parties and achieve what we did,” Commander Johnson said.
“Disposing of the illegal narcotics provides tangible evidence that we’re making a difference.
“There’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction that comes with successful seizures and I thank the ship’s company for their flexibility and resilience throughout the deployment,” Commander Johnson said.
Ballarat’s illicit drug seizures included approximately 19.76 tonnes of hashish, 1.41 tonnes of heroin and 50 kilograms of methamphetamine and amphetamine.
This was the 67th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy vessel in the region since 1990.
Operation MANITOU is the name for the Australian Government's contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East Region.
*Note: This calculation is 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).
Imagery is available on the Navy Image Gallery