In a combined French and Australian operation, naval ships seized and destroyed almost 650 kilograms of cannabis resin hidden aboard a smuggling skiff in the Red Sea.
After HMAS Darwin intercepted the skiff, her boarding party discovered the cannabis resin in 120 plastic packages concealed in hessian bags labelled ‘Basmati Rice’.
The skiff was initially detected by a French maritime patrol aircraft, with coordination and direction provided by the French Ship (FS) Jean Bart and HMAS Darwin’s Seahawk helicopter.
The operation’s commander and Commanding Officer of the FS Jean Bart, Captain Benoit Bautonnière, requested HMAS Darwin close and investigate the skiff.
HMAS Darwin’s Commanding Officer, Commander Terry Morrison, said Australia’s interoperability with the French was key to the interdiction.
“Today we removed these drugs from potential terrorist funding networks and demonstrated the highly effective interoperability of HMAS Darwin, FS Atlantique’s aircraft, FS Jean Bart and Combined Task Force 150,” Commander Morrison said.
“The seizure comes less then a week after HMAS Darwin worked closely with Pakistan to save 13 fishermen shipwrecked and adrift for five days in international waters,” he said.
FS Jean Bart and HMAS Darwin are currently deployed on patrol under tasking to the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and the Australian led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.
CTF 150 Australian commander Commodore Daryl Bates said the seizure reinforces concerns that smugglers are active in the Red Sea area.
“I commend HMAS Darwin for her first successful narcotics seizure so early in her deployment, and thank the FS Jean Bart and French maritime patrol aircraft for their coordination and assistance. It’s a fine example of how Navies in the CMF can work together to counter illicit activities on our oceans,” Commodore Bates said.
CTF 150 conducts maritime security operations in the maritime regions of the Middle East and Indian Ocean to deter terrorism and promote peace and security.
CTF 150 is one of three principle task forces operated by the CMF a 30-nation coalition based in Bahrain.
CTF 150’s Area of Operation and responsibility spans over 2.5 million square miles, covering the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman.
More imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery at: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20140548.