HMAS Melbourne had a ‘white Christmas’ of sorts after landing 118kg of heroin from a fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day.
The ship’s boarding party completed a thorough search of the vessel on 26 December and discovered 118kg of drugs hidden inside, which was subsequently transported onboard HMAS Melbourne for further analysis and disposal.
It was the ship’s fourth successful drug seizure for Operation Manitou.
Specialised equipment onboard the Australian guided missile frigate identified the drugs as high-grade heroin, which was valued at more than $100million based on Australian Crime Commission figures.
Commodore Jaimie Hatcher, the commander of the joint Australian/Canadian Combined Task Force 150 who directed the mission, said the boarding reinforces the commitment and capability of Navy personnel who deploy to the region.
“This latest seizure is testament to the professionalism of HMAS Melbourne’s crew and the Royal Australian Navy in general,” he said.
“The message here to smugglers who try to make a profit from running drugs for terrorists is simple – we will pursue you.”
Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston, said the latest seizure took the total drugs seized by RAN ships in the Middle East to more than five tonnes in the past two years.
“The Navy personnel deployed to the Middle East are on duty around the clock and everyday of the week and continue to do a fantastic job. Their commitment is again demonstrated over this year’s Christmas period,” he said.
“Since starting operational duties in September 2015, Melbourne has conducted four successful seizures of illegal narcotics totalling more than 900 kilograms.
“This latest seizure demonstrates our national commitment to eliminating the funding sources of terrorism.”
Melbourne is conducting maritime security operations with the multinational Combined Maritime Forces as part of CTF150. The ship’s operations encompass the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.
This is Melbourne’s 8th deployment to the Middle East Region and the 61st for the RAN since the Gulf War in 1991.