HMAS Warramunga’s crew has conducted one of the largest drug seizures in Operation Manitou’s history as part of the Australian-led Combined Task Force 150.
CAPTION: Seized parcels of heroin lay on the flight deck of HMAS Warramunga during an operation in the Western Indian Ocean. Photo by Leading Seaman Tom Gibson.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft detected a suspicious vessel in the Western Indian Ocean on 23 January 2018, which was boarded and investigated by the crew in RAN frigate HMAS Warramunga on 24 January.
The a joint counter-narcotics operation by the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal New Zealand Air Force netted 915kg of heroin valued in excess of AUD$274 million.
In another ‘joint’ link, two Royal New Zealand Navy sailors posted on exchange on the Australian frigate drove the sea boats to transport Warramunga’s boarding party and the cache of illegal narcotics seized.
Over the past two months Warramunga’s crew has seized and destroyed more than 11.5 tonnes of hashish and more than one tonne of heroin – with a total value in excess of $900 million (based on the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Illicit Drug Data Report 2015–16 figures for Cannabis Resin (Hashish) @ $50 per gram (p215) and Heroin @ $300,000 per kilo (p216)).
Commander Australian Defence Force personnel in the Middle East Rear Admiral Jaimie Hatcher said the latest operation highlighted the significant contribution both Australia and New Zealand make to maritime security in the region.
“Warramunga has now interdicted six vessels carrying illegal narcotics since November,” Rear Admiral Hatcher said.
“This operation highlights the important role played by partner nations, as part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), in increasing maritime security in the Middle East and Western Indian Ocean.”
Commanding Officer of HMAS Warramunga Commander Dugald Clelland said the operation was a team effort between close partners.
“The RNZAF P-3 was able to identify the vessel and direct us to a successful boarding resulting in the seizure of a very significant quantity of illegal narcotics,” Commander Clelland said.
“The illegal drugs were transferred to Warramunga for disposal at sea.”
Squadron Leader Adam O’Rourke, who is leading the NZDF’s 55-member maritime surveillance detachment in the Middle East said one of the rewards of being part of the mission was knowing that their work had a direct impact, by taking away terrorists’ income streams.
“It’s great to know that our contribution makes a difference,” Squadron Leader O’Rourke said.
This is Warramunga’s third deployment to the Middle East region, and is the 66th rotation of a RAN vessel in the region since 1990.
Operation Manitou is the Australian government’s contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East Region.
Combined Taskforce 150 is one of three task forces operating under Combined Maritime Forces. Australia assumed command the Combined Task Force 150 in December 2017.
Summary of vessels interdicted with drugs by Warramunga:
- 27—29 December 2017: 8 tonnes hashish, 69kg heroin, (three vessels interdicted over this period)
- 3 January 2018: hashish, 3.5 tonnes
- 7 January 2018: heroin, 111kg
- 24 January 2018: heroin, 915kg