HMAS Darwin operating in the Indian Ocean in international waters, 40 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia, intercepted a suspected drug smuggling dhow on 13 May 2014, seizing 449 kilograms of heroin with an estimated street value of $132 million dollars.
Darwin’s Commanding Officer, Commander Terry Morrison, said the seizure removed a major source of funding for terrorist and criminal networks which included Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Al-Shabaab.
“I am very proud of the hard work and determination of the ship’s company in HMAS Darwin during a particularly long and challenging interdiction,” Commander Morrison said.
“Due to the hard work of many previous ships deploying to this region, we have been very successful in intercepting illegal narcotics smuggling.”
Darwin’s boarding party discovered the hidden drugs contained in 20 bags each weighing between 20 to 25 kilograms.
As part of Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Darwin is deployed on patrol under tasking to the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and the UK led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.
Commander of Operation SLIPPER in the Middle East Area of Operations, Major General Craig Orme, said Australia’s commitment to the CMF contributed to the Indian Ocean’s security and the trade which flowed through it which was important to global, regional and Australian strategic interests.
“HMAS Darwin has made a considerable impact on the drug smuggling networks operating in the Indian Ocean. This is an excellent outcome and highlights the good work being conducted by ADF members on Operation Slipper,” Major General Orme said.
CTF 150 is responsible for enforcing maritime security in the Middle East and Indian Ocean regions to counter terrorist acts and related illegal activities, which terrorists use to fund or conceal their movements.
Commander of CTF 150, Commodore Jeremy Blunden of the Royal Navy, said the drug haul was the CMF’s seventh significant seizure this year.
“The interception of heroin traffic is an important part of the work of the CMF as some of the profit from the trafficking of heroin goes to extremist and terrorist organisations,” Commodore Blunden said.
The CMF works to defeat terrorism, prevent piracy, encourage regional engagement, reduce illegal trafficking of people and drugs, and promote the maritime environment as a safe place for mariners with legitimate business.
HMAS Darwin has conducted several previous drug seizures including over 1 tonne of heroin with an estimated street value of $289 million dollars. HMAS Darwin is the 57th individual Royal Australian Navy ship deployment to the Middle East Area of operations since 1990.
Press Release, May 15, 2014; Image: Australian Navy