USS Elrod (FFG 55) encountered three suspected drug smugglers off the coast of Morocco in international waters in the Western Mediterranean Sea yesterday evening while conducting routine operations in the US Sixth Fleet area of operations.
At approximately 8 p.m., while conducting a surface search mission, a SH-60B Seahawk helicopter assigned to Elrod spotted three individuals discarding multiple packages into the sea from their ridged hull inflatable boat (RHIB).
The helicopter relayed the information to Elrod, which then altered course and attempted to establish radio communication with the unknown RHIB. Upon arrival a search and rescue swimmer was deployed and recovered several packages, two of which tested positive for narcotics.
A seven man visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) team conducted a consensual boarding on the RHIB to verify the vessel’s registration and country of origin. Upon discovering the suspected smugglers were from Morocco the ship notified Moroccan authorities and loitered nearby until a transfer of the suspected smugglers could be facilitated. Elrod has since coordinated with Moroccan authorities who apprehended the suspected drug smugglers earlier this morning.
Elrod, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class Frigate homeported out of Norfolk, is on a regularly scheduled deployment in the US Sixth Fleet area of operations.
Pic: USS Elrod
Source: Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa