A Royal Navy ship and US Coast Guard boarding team has seized more than 400kg of cocaine from a boat in the Caribbean.
Caribbean-based patrol ship HMS Medway and her embarked US Coast Guard law-enforcement detachment spotted the vessel near the Dominican Republic with help from a patrol aircraft.
Following a tense chase, the vessel was boarded, the drugs discovered and three crew members detained.
Commanding Officer of HMS Medway Commander Chris Hollingworth said that to secure an interdiction on the crews’ first day dedicated to that type of operation was tremendous.
“Everyone involved demonstrated their professionalism during a challenging pursuit,” Commander Hollingworth said.
“It might be the first, but we’re going to make sure that it won’t be the last.
“I speak on behalf of everyone here in saying this has galvanised our determination to succeed.”
The boat contained several large packages, which were quickly confirmed as being cocaine before being seized and brought aboard the warship.
It’s believed the boat had come from South America, on a common route taken by smugglers at this time of year.
After an overnight operation to secure the contraband – estimated by the National Crime Agency to be worth around £24m, had those drugs reached the streets of the UK – and detain the crew, the vessel was sunk by Medway’s gunnery team.
The destruction of the drug-smuggling vessel, which is normal for this type of operation, ensured it could no longer be used for illegal activity – while also providing valuable gunnery training for the Medway crew.
A member of US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 404 said that although that type of drug-running boatwas commonplace in the Caribbean, it didn’t in any way diminish the achievement of landing the significant seizure.
“Together with our partners on board Medway, and in the skies above us, we’re able to smash a hole in the supply chain and disrupt the movement of these harmful drugs before they have the chance to harm people at home and abroad,” he said.
Commissioned in 2019, HMS Medway is on long-term deployment in the Caribbean.
Medway recently helped the people of the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos in their recovery efforts following Hurricanes Ian and Fiona.
Commander Hollingworth said that mission was a perfect example of Medway’s versatility, and demonstrated his team’s ability to shift from disaster-relief operations to counter illicit trafficking operations without missing a beat.
“I’m exceptionally proud of the collective effort of my ship’s company and our colleagues from the US Coast Guard for their proactive attitude and total commitment to the task.”