HMS Montrose Seizes 170kg of Narcotics From Dhow in Arabian Sea

October 12: Two warships, one from the Royal Navy and one from the French Marine Nationale, have made major drugs seizure from a dhow in the Arabian Sea.  HMS MONTROSE, a Type 23 frigate, and FS JEAN BART, a Cassard class frigate, worked together to intercept 94 kgs of heroin and 76 kgs of crystal methamphetamine with a regional wholesale value of over a million US dollars.  Narcotics smuggling in the region is linked to major criminal networks and terrorism.

The suspicious dhow was initially located by FS JEAN BART’s helicopter and boarded by a team from the French ship who secured the vessel and conducted an initial investigation.  In associated support to CTF150, they collected information on her recent activities and ensured the dhow was secured and safe.  Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel from HMS MONTROSE then took over the search of the vessel and the team located and seized a large number of packages containing the drugs.

The warships were operating as part of the multinational task force, Combined Task Force (CTF) 150. This is part of the 33 nation coalition Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and has responsibility for counter terrorism and counter narcotics across a large area of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. CTF 150 is a joint command shared between the Royal Navy and French Marine Nationale and is led by Commodore Ed Ahlgren of the Royal Navy, who took over in August of this year. He was delighted with the outcome of the operation:

‘This interdiction is testament to the outstanding teamwork and collaborative co-operation within CMF that has been demonstrated in my area of operations. I am enormously grateful to French Ship JEAN BART for initially locating and securing the vessel in preparation for handover to another coalition unit.  HMS MONTROSE then responded in a tradition I would expect from the Royal Navy. Her Ship’s Company showed true professionalism and grit in the manner in which they conducted the boarding – collectively as a UK-French endeavour, we have now successfully stopped this particular illegal cargo reaching other regions of the world and probably prevented well over a million dollars of funding for those who would wish to do us harm.’

The Commanding Officer of HMS MONTROSE, Commander Ollie Hucker Royal Navy, said he and his ship’s company have been training hard for this type of mission:

‘We were conducting a Replenishment at Sea with a US Navy Tanker in the early morning when I received the news of the suspicious dhow. We were ready to commence a successful counter narcotics operation with the French Ship JEAN BART in the afternoon; this demonstrates the flexibility and professionalism of the Royal Navy and French Navy and the very close interoperability with our coalition allies. I am immensely proud of my Ship’s Company who have all played their part in tackling the international drugs trade from the sea and have prevented the landing of these drugs in other countries, perhaps even the streets of the UK. Seizures like these put a dent in the funding of wider illicit and illegal activity”.

HMS MONTROSE has teams from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines able to conduct boardings at short notice.  The ship’s boarding officer is Sub Lieutenant Will de la Mare Royal Navy:

‘The Royal Navy Boarding Team worked closely with the Royal Marines Boarding Team, who provided the security of the vessel, so we could search the vessel. These teams are made up of a range of the Ship‘s Company with many and varied skill sets, and they were successfully able to locate the narcotics on board’.

One of the Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat drivers is Advanced Tactical Coxswain Able Seaman, Seaman Specialist Ben Davies:

‘Working at night was particularly challenging.  Once my training kicked in, I was able to manoeuvre the sea boats successfully alongside the dhow to allow members of the boarding team to embark safely as well as recover them and the drugs, back onto HMS MONTROSE’

This brings the total of drugs seized by CMF warships in 2019 to over 2000 kg of heroin, just over 130 kg of crystal methamphetamine and nearly 50,000kg of hashish. Locally, this would equate to around over 46 million US Dollars and is ahead of the total achieved in 2018 at this stage of the year.  By the end of the 2018, CMF warships had seized narcotics worth over 75 million US Dollars.

HMS Montrose is the first Royal Naval ship to be forward deployed to the Middle East and is supported by personnel from the Royal Navy and other Services working as part of United Kingdom Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) and CMF.  Since arriving in April 2019, she has undertaken a wide range of operational tasking ensuring freedom of navigation in the region, protection of merchant shipping as well as tasking in support of CMF.

Source: Combined Maritime Forces

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