SAILORS from Portsmouth have led a major drugs bust, seizing more than a tonne of heroin – worth an estimated £150m – in the Indian Ocean.
For the past three months Royal Navy personnel from HMS Excellent, on Whale Island, have been waging war against drug dealers and terrorists.
We will continue to tackle this menace whenever, and wherever we can.Commander of CTF 150 Commodore Guy Robinson
They have been spearheading an international naval fleet known as the Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, whose mission is to stifle illegal activity in the Indian Ocean.
Commander of CTF 150 Commodore Guy Robinson said: ‘This has been a highly successful operation to prevent a very significant amount of heroin from reaching the shores of Europe.
‘It is also an excellent example of the impressive co-operation across CMF contributing-nations, at sea, in the air and ashore. We will continue to tackle this menace whenever, and wherever we can.’
The bust, known as Operation Shirikisho – which means unity in Swahili, was planned by the navy staff from Portsmouth.
The team, based in Bahrain, was in command of an Australian frigate, a French ship and French maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft whose mission was to intercept vessels trafficking drugs to East Africa.
HMAS Darwin’s boarding team had the first success, uncovering a 380kg haul of heroin stashed on a small 20m fishing dhow after an eight-and-a-half-hour search.
Then, 12 hours later, the team boarded another boat, uncovering 512kg of the deadly narcotic, with a third haul of 60kg of heroin being found on another vessel.
The French Navy, which had played a crucial role by providing air surveillance for the operation, also had success at sea.
French ship Nivose, which had been patrolling off the coast of East Africa alongside her Australian opposite number, sent a boarding team to search a dhow, finding 130kg of heroin.
Captain John Craig, deputy commander of the task force, added that operations like Shirikisho helped refine tactical skills and that even the smallest vessels could be detected by the navy.
The Portsmouth battle squad joined CTF 150 earlier this year.
The force is part of Combined Maritime Forces, a multi-national naval partnership.
It’s role is to police 3.2m sq miles of water, spanning the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and the Gulf region.