PRIME minister David Cameron has praised the courage of sailors from Portsmouth who have helped to seize almost £1bn worth of drugs from smugglers in just under two years.
Figures obtained exclusively by The News reveal that daring raids against drug gangs by the Royal Navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary have resulted in the force capturing £936.8m of narcotics since January 1, 2014.
The men and women behind these operations represent Britain at its very best and they should know that they go about their crucial work with the nation’s thanksDavid Cameron, prime minister
The news has since delighted Prime Minster David Cameron who said drug busts like this represented ‘Britain at its very best’.
‘I never cease to be impressed by the professionalism and determination of our armed forces personnel, and this outstanding achievement by the Royal Navy is just the latest example of their formidable capability,’ the PM told The News. ‘Whether it’s targeting the evil cult of Daesh in Iraq and Syria; manning our constant at-sea nuclear deterrent; or helping the victims of floods back here in the UK, our sailors, soldiers and airmen make huge sacrifices and put their lives on the line to keep us safe.
‘By seizing such enormous quantities of illegal drugs, the Royal Navy is also protecting our communities in another way – playing a critical role in the fight against a scourge which wrecks lives and families. In addition, this drug interdiction work helps our good friends in the Caribbean by keeping drugs and drug money out of their countries too.
‘The men and women behind these operations represent Britain at its very best and they should know that they go about their crucial work with the nation’s thanks.’
The five ships involved in the raids were HMS Richmond, HMS St Albans, HMS Somerset, HMS Argyll and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Wave Knight.
During the two-year period, crews struck smuggling routes across the Caribbean, North Arabian Sea as well as the North Sea and Mediterranean.
The largest haul came last year and involved two of Portsmouth’s Type 23 frigates, Richmond and St Albans, as well as Devonport-based ship HMS Somerset.
During the 11 months between January 1 and December 1, 2015, naval teams secured a staggering seven tonnes of cocaine and 1,320kg of cannabis – worth a combined street value of £602.8m.
Throughout 2014 a total of seven busts were made, involving Somerset, Wave Knight and Argyll – wiping out an estimated £324m worth of drugs.
Among the haul included three shipments of cocaine totalling more than 1.6 tonnes, as well as 60kg of heroin.
The navy also seized a further 57 bales which contained even more cocaine.
Much of this would have made its way into Europe, with a quantity hitting streets here in the UK, city leaders said.
Portsmouth’s Tory council boss councillor Donna Jones was delighted by the raids and said: ‘The value of drugs seized by the Royal Navy could almost run two cities like Portsmouth for a year which is staggering.’
Cllr Jones added: ‘The Royal Navy should be congratulated on the incredible amount of class A drugs they have seized.
‘I have no doubt that this amount quantity of drugs, had it reached the streets of the UK, could have killed a number of people.’
The Royal Navy’s fleet commander, Vice Admiral Sir Philip Jones said he was determined to stamp out the global scourge of drugs.
He said: ‘The Royal Navy has an excellent and well deserved record of tackling, and stopping, not just the smuggling of drugs, but also human trafficking and the spread of terrorism, wherever we operate in the world.
‘In this way the Royal Navy is having a tangible impact in helping to guarantee that the security and prosperity of the UK is maintained.’