HMAS Melbourne seizes another major drug haul in Middle East

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) frigate HMAS Melbourne has seized and destroyed over half a tonne of heroin with an estimated street value of $AU1.086 billion, in just 48 hours.   

On 7 February 2014, 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 kilograms of heroin.

Initial reporting suggests the heroin has an estimated Australian street value of around $AU380 million dollars.

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Crew from HMAS Melbourne had previously located 353 kilograms of heroin during a similar boarding in the same area on 5 February 2014.

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, RAN Commanding Officer HMAS Melbourne, said his crew was excited by the second large seizure in short succession.

“The team here on Melbourne has worked hard during this long deployment, and to have this further success demonstrates that we have indeed made a difference in the region,” Commander Schlegel said.

“During this deployment Melbourne has intercepted a Pirate Action Group, seized and destroyed 23.8 kilograms 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 Pirate Action Group, comprising of nine suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia in October 2013. In December 2013, HMAS Melbourne made three successful seizures of suspected methamphetamines, totalling 23.8 kilograms.

Commodore Daryl Bates, the Australian Commander of Combined Task Force 150, who commanded the operation, congratulated HMAS Melbourne on another successful interdiction of heroin.

“I am pleased that 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,” Commodore Bates said.

“Combined Maritime Forces units have now seized 1.3 tonnes of heroin with an estimated Australian street value of $AU2.7 billion since Australia assumed command of Combined Task Force 150 in December 2013. Add to this the 24 kilograms 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, says the Royal Australian Navy’s involvement in Operation SLIPPER is a key element to Joint Task Force 633’s overall objectives and success.

“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,” Major General Orme said.

Source: MoD Australia
Date: Feb 10, 2014