DRUG smugglers transporting a haul of heroin worth £56m were caught out by Royal Navy sailors on board HMS Dragon as the ship sailed back to Portsmouth.
The Type 45 destroyer’s crew carried out her seventh bust yesterday after sailors spotted a suspicious-looking fishing vessel while passing through the Arabian Sea for the final time.
The warship has now entered the record books after yesterday’s discovery of 224kg of heroin. She has set a record for both the number of successful busts and the total weight of drugs seized by a Royal Navy ship in the Middle East.
Engineering Technician Thomas Leah said: ‘I was searching the engine space when I noticed a sack underneath one of the fuel tanks.
‘We removed the sack and exposed more sacks, all containing small packages.
‘It was hard work in a hot and small compartment but when it was confirmed it was heroin inside it felt like a job well done.’
Lance Corporal Ben Clark, one of the ship’s Royal Marines from Plymouth-based 42 Commando, said: ‘It was great to finish our time in the Gulf on such a high by completing yet another drug bust.
‘It was a hot, gruelling morning for the teams as we conducted the search so it was a relief when we found the narcotics so early in the search.’
Since deploying to the Middle East in September last year, HMS Dragon has racked up a record haul of drugs from criminals they have hunted down across the open seas including 15,246kg of hash, 455kg of heroin, and 9kg of crystal meth totalling £145m.
The drugs seized, which have a combined UK street value of hundreds of millions of pounds, have all been destroyed. It deals a significant blow to the funding of terrorism and criminal activity known to profit from the sale of narcotics.
Commander Michael Carter-Quinn, the Commanding Officer of HMS Dragon, said: ‘Once again the Dragons have prevented a significant quantity of drugs reaching the streets of the UK. Their relentless determination reflects the Royal Navy’s global commitment towards maritime security, making Britain a safer and more prosperous place.
‘Our sailors have worked exceptionally hard in the Gulf. They have done themselves, their families, and the country proud. I am honoured to serve with them every day.’
Defence secretary Gavin Williamson added: ‘The work of HMS Dragon and her crew in combating this evil trade over the last few weeks has been outstanding and they fully deserve their place in the record books.
‘While we celebrate this success, we recognise there still more criminals out there who are spreading harmful drugs around the world and funding terrorist organisations.’
As HMS Dragon heads home for the UK, this may be the final drugs bust she makes of her deployment. But the Type 45 destroyer now hands over to Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose, who will soon begin her own time on patrol in the Middle East.