Portsmouth-based warship makes £58m Caribbean drugs bust

Recovered drug bales onboard HMS Lancaster. Picture: L(Phot) Jay Allen
Recovered drug bales onboard HMS Lancaster. Picture: L(Phot) Jay Allen
Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson. Pictute: LPhot Ioan Roberts

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Sailors on board HMS Lancaster have struck another blow to the drugs trade after seizing cannabis and cocaine worth around £58m.

The Portsmouth-based frigate is currently on operations in the Caribbean when they were called to intercept suspected traffickers.

The call came from a Caribbean tanker which had spotted a speedboat in the western Caribbean.

HMS Lancaster quickly launched her Lynx helicopter to give chase to the fast moving vessel.

The drugs runners then dumped their contraband over the side.

A Royal Marine sniper in the helicopter shot a hole in the engine of the boat, enabling a US Coastguard team on to apprehend those on board.

HMS Lancaster then went to collect the drugs from the sea before they sank.

The 17 large packages were tested and found to be pure cocaine worth around £55m if they had reached the streets of the UK.

Commander Steve Moorhouse, HMS Lancaster’s commanding officer, said: ‘This is another fantastic result for Lancaster and the multi-national counter-narcotics effort as a whole.

‘The level of co-operation that exists between units and nations working within the Joint Interagency Task Force is second to none.

‘Hopefully this bust will make those who choose to smuggle narcotics in the region think twice.’

Just days earlier, the ship had recovered marijuana weight almost 1.2 tonnes in treacherous conditions are it was ditched by a speedboat.

In the middle of a violent thunderstorm, the crew had to work fast to recover 45 packets of contraband before they sank or floated away.

During a patrol, Lancaster’s helicopter had spotted a suspect vessel and started watching its movement.

But as soon as the speedboat saw them, those on board started to ditch their drugs and increase speed.

An all-night game of cat and mouse ensued, before the drug runners were arrested in Costa Rican waters by authorities there.

HMS Lancaster’s work has earned high praise from Mark Francois, the government minister for the armed forces.

He said: ‘I visited HMS Lancaster earlier this year as the ship’s company prepared for their deployment so I’m pleased to hear of the ship’s fourth major drugs bust in as many weeks.

‘We should be extremely proud of HMS Lancaster’s actions in the Caribbean and efforts to disrupt the supply of illegal, life-destroying drugs.

‘This is another fantastic success for the ship’s company.’

As reported in The News, HMS Lancaster has been involved in several other drugs busts during her time at sea.