Just weeks after Royal Navy support ship RFA Mounts Bay embarked US Coast Guard personnel for counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean, the team found their first contraband.
The Bay-class ship embarked a Dolphin helicopter from the US Coast Guard’s HITRON – Helicopter Interdiction Tactical squadRON – and its counter-narcotics boarding team, the LEDET (Legal Enforcement DETachment) – earlier this month.
The Coast Guard were conducting a training exercise when the helicopter’s crew spotted a bale bobbing in the water. The boarding team recovered the objected, tested the contents and reported that the bale contained around 50lbs (22kg) of marijuana – worth upwards of £4m to dealers in the UK.
The bale was subsequently handed over to a US Coast Guard cutter Isaac Mayo for destruction.
Captain Angus Bissell, RFA Mounts Bay’s Commanding Officer, said the presence of his ship and its Coast Guard team constantly prowling the Caribbean had a deterrent effect.
It’s typical practice for drug runners using ‘go fast’ speedboats to ditch their illegal cargoes overboard in a vain effort to outrun the authorities.
“This demonstrated that UK and US forces working in partnership, a great unity of effort, are committed to – and showing success in reducing – the flow of drugs throughout the Wider Caribbean Region,” said Capt Bissell.
Mounts Bay is the UK’s long-term naval presence in the Caribbean, dedicating her summers and autumns to disaster relief operations in the wake of hurricanes which strike with devastating frequency, while the rest of her year is focused on counter drugs patrols.