A Royal Navy warship has seized £8.5 million-worth of heroin during a raid on a fishing boat in the northern Arabian Sea.
Nearly 60 kilos (130lb) of the drug was seized by sailors and Royal Marines from HMS Somerset, the Plymouth-based Type 23 frigate, who intercepted the suspect vessel using fast boats.
HMS Somerset’s crew found the dhow – a type of vessel common to the Middle East and Indian Ocean – during an operation for the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter-terrorism Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.
Lords defence spokesman Lord Astor said: “I congratulate the company of HMS Somerset for their actions in this operation.
“This drugs seizure follows other recent successful interdiction and deterrence operations across the globe by the Royal Navy which all play a vital role in helping to protect us here at home.”
Commodore Jeremy Blunden, commander of CFT 150, said: “I am delighted that HMS Somerset has made this interception and I offer my congratulations to Commander Smith and his team for finding this well-hidden contraband in difficult conditions.
“This is the ninth seizure of heroin that CTF 150 has made this year as part of a determined effort to combat both the flow of heroin across the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean to East Africa, and funding to terrorist organisations.
“The destruction of the drugs will reduce key funding lines for known terror groups.”
A Royal Navy spokesman said: “HMS Somerset’s Lynx helicopter was launched to intercept the dhow and guide the boarding team to its exact location.
“Once on board, the Royal Navy team worked tirelessly for 23 hours to find the contraband’s hiding place, stashed under a false deck.
“The drugs were then brought on board HMS Somerset where they were tested for purity before being destroyed.”
Commander Mike Smith, Somerset’s commanding officer, said: “HMS Somerset’s recent success at intercepting a vessel smuggling heroin is a great example of what the Royal Navy does best.
“Full-hearted commitment to the task, courage and teamwork were central to halting this shipment of illegal narcotics. I am incredibly proud of what my team have achieved, not only today but for their efforts throughout the last five months of operations in the Middle East. ”
Royal Marines Captain Steve Taylor, the officer in charge of the boarding team from 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group, said: “Boarding is very unpredictable by its nature as you simply do not know what you will be faced with.
“The length of time it took to get this result makes the discovery even sweeter and this was a genuine whole-ship effort. This was an example of HMS Somerset operating at her very best and achieving excellent results.”
HMS Somerset passed through the Suez Canal at the beginning of the year and has since carried out maritime security patrols in the busy trading regions of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
The Type 23 frigate’s first drugs haul this deployment came only a few days after joining CTF 150.
Combined Task Force 150 is one of three international naval task forces operating under the CMF banner in the Middle East, which aim to counter terrorism, piracy and all illicit activity across more than 2.5 million square miles of ocean.