Portsmouth destroyer HMS Defender seizes £5.6m drugs haul in the Gulf

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The new commanding officer of HMS Collingwood, Captain Rob Vitali. Picture: Keith Woodland/MoD

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A PORTSMOUTH ship has dealt another blow to international drugs dealers after seizing more than a tonne of hashish – worth an estimated £5.6m.

HMS Defender’s Royal Marine boarding team discovered 51 bales of drugs, each weight 20kg, on a fishing boat off the coast of Oman.

The narcotics were analysed by Royal Navy Police on the Portsmouth-based Type 45 before being destroyed.

The destroyer is working on counter-narcotics and counter-terrorist operations, the navy has said.

The seizure from the boat, a dhow, was made with the support of Defenders Lynx helicopter and a United States P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft.

In total 1,020kg of ‘high grade’ hashish was discovered.

The news comes just days after it was revealed a navy team from Whale Island, Portsmouth, helped lead a bust which seized £150m of heroin in the Indian Ocean.

Commodore Guy Robinson, the commander of the Royal Navy-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, said: ‘While our mission is much broader than counter-narcotics, it’s satisfying that we have dealt another blow to those that seek to use the sea for their illicit activity, so soon after the seizure of over a tonne of heroin by other CTF 150 ships.

‘The real strength in Combined Maritime Forces is the international co-operation at sea and in the air, demonstrated fully in this seizure.’

Commander Steve Higham, the commanding officer of HMS Defender, added: ‘This has been a fantastic example of co-operation between maritime forces in disrupting the flow of illegal narcotics.

‘The ship’s boarding teams, in fact all of the sailors and Royal Marines in HMS Defender, are delighted to have contributed to this enormous seizure.’

The news has since earned praise from the UK’s defence secretary Michael Fallon.

The former minister of Portsmouth said: ‘This operation shows the navy is working to tackle threats not just near our shores but also across the globe.’

The Royal Navy has a long association with Combined Maritime Force, a multi-national naval partnership, which is designed to promote security, stability, and prosperity in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and the Gulf region.

The role sees the naval squadron policing an area of about 3.2m sq miles

The principal mission of CTF 150 is to disrupt terrorist organisations and their unlawful activities by restricting freedom of manoeuvre at sea, including tackling the narcotics trafficking that funds terrorist activities.

Over the past two years the Royal Navy has seized almost £1bn of drugs worldwide.