Navy divers assist with massive cocaine bust

Royal Australian Navy clearance divers have assisted Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police and Western Australian Police Force in a joint operation resulting in the seizure of about 800kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of $AUD320 million.

CAPTION: Navy clearance divers extract packages of cocaine from a flooded ballast tank in the bulk carrier MV St Pinot. Story by Lieutenant Commander Andrew Herring.

The Western Australian-based Australian Clearance Diving Team Four responded to a request from Australian Border Force to search a flooded ballast tank in the 32,000-tonne Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier MV St Pinot, detained while berthed at the bulk terminal at Kwinana, WA.

The divers conducted a confined-spaces dive lasting more than 90 minutes, using surface-supplied breathing apparatus to locate and remove 28 packages weighing about 30kg each, containing the cocaine.

Police removed the 29th package after the tank was drained.

Director General Maritime Operations Commodore Michael Harris commended the divers for their quick response and successful outcome under difficult conditions.

“Defence responded promptly to a request for assistance from federal law enforcement, bringing specialist capabilities to a very hazardous task and completing it safely and professionally,” Commodore Harris said.

“The operation is an example of inter-agency cooperation achieving a positive outcome for Australia’s security.”

Australian Clearance Diving Team Four is one of two commissioned clearance diving teams in the Navy.

They are the ADF’s specialist divers, who operate in-service diving equipment to the maximum permissible depths.

They also conduct explosive ordnance disposal and can locate and destroy underwater ordnance, maritime assets or other items.

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CAPTION: Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force personnel display the seized cocaine found concealed in a ballast tank inside the bulk carrier MV St Pinot


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