The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) frigate HMAS Melbourne has seized and destroyed over half a tonne of heroin with an estimated street value of AU$1.086 billion.
On February 7, HMAS Melbourne made her second successful seizure of narcotics during a boarding operation on a suspected drug smuggling vessel off the coast of Tanzania. The boarding party located and seized 190 kg of heroin.
According to a statement issued by the Australian Department of Defence the heroin has an estimated street value of around AU$380 million dollars.
Crew from HMAS Melbourne previously located 353 kg of heroin during a similar boarding in the same area on February 5.
HMAS Melbourne used its embarked S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter to locate the suspicious vessel operating off Zanzibar, Tanzania, as part of maritime security operations in the region under the control of the Australian-led Combined Task Force 150, which operates as part of the 30 nation Combined Maritime Forces.
Commander Brian Schlegel, Commanding Officer of HMAS Melbourne, said his crew was excited by the second large seizure in short succession.
“The team on Melbourne has worked hard during this long deployment and to have this further success demonstrates we have indeed made a difference in the region,” he said.
“During this deployment Melbourne has intercepted a pirate action group (PAG), seized and destroyed 23.8 kg of methamphetamines and over half a tonne of heroin. This is a good day for HMAS Melbourne but not too good for the drug smugglers.”
HMAS Melbourne successfully disrupted the PAG, comprising nine suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia last October. In December the frigate made three successful seizures of suspected methamphetamines, totalling 23.8 kg.
Commodore Daryl Bates, the Australian Commander of CTF-150, who commanded the operation, congratulated HMAS Melbourne on another successful interdiction of heroin.
“I am pleased we are again able to publically demonstrate the good work the Combined Maritime Forces are doing to deter terrorism and terrorist-related activities in the Middle East and Indian Ocean regions,” he said.
“Combined Maritime Forces units have now seized 1.3 t of heroin with an estimated Australian street value of AU$2.7 billion since Australia assumed command of Combined Task Force 150 in December. Add to this the 24 kg of methamphetamines seized and it is clear we are succeeding in our mission.”
Commander of Australian military forces in the Middle East, Major General Craig Orme, said the RAN is involved in Operation Slipper, Australia’s military contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, maritime security in the Middle East area of operations and countering piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
“These latest seizures and HMAS Melbourne’s contribution over the course of its deployment highlights the importance of maintaining a maritime commitment in the region,” he said.
CTF-150 is one of three task forces operated by Combined Maritime Forces from a 25 nation coalition based in Bahrain. Its purpose is to help create a lawful and stable maritime environment free from terrorism, smuggling and other illegal activities across an area of two million square miles, covering the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman.