Australian HMAS Melbourne seized 151 kilograms of heroin worth an estimated $AUD44.5 ($32.6) million from a fishing dhow off the east coast of Africa November 30.
HMAS Melbourne’s Commanding Officer Commander Bill Waters said the ship’s crew boarded a suspicious fishing vessel following surveillance which suggested the dhow might be engaged in illegal activity.
Commander Bill Waters said: “Interviews with the dhow’s crew raised suspicion that it could be involved in the smuggling of illegal narcotics,”
“On first inspection there were no obvious signs of smuggling, however, our boarding teams are trained to a very high standard and with determination and diligence we were able to locate and extract the narcotics from hidden compartments within the vessel.”
The Combined Maritime Forces based in Bahrain approved the vessel’s search. The heroin was transferred to HMAS Melbourne’s flight deck for testing and confirmation.
The drug haul is the second for HMAS Melbourne’s current deployment to the Middle East region, bringing the total weight of heroin seized to more 578 kilograms in two months.
Commander Joint Operations Command, Vice Admiral David Johnston said the haul raised the Royal Australian Navy’s 2015 drug seizures in the Middle East region to almost $600 million.
HMAS Melbourne is on her eighth deployment to the Middle East region as part of Operation Manitou, the Australian contribution to Maritime Security Operations in the Middle East region.
HMAS Melbourne is operating within Combined Task Force 150 which is one of three principal task forces operated by the CMF, a 30-nation coalition based in Bahrain.