HMS Defender seizes hashish worth £1m in Indian Ocean

HMS Defender has made a second significant drugs bust in as many months, after she seized and destroyed a record haul of crystal meth in December.

Portsmouth-based HMS Defender has been operating in support of Combined Task Force 150 – an international team tasked with keeping the seas of the Gulf secure.

The drugs bust unfolded after Defender launched her Wildcat helicopter to begin a search for possible illegitimate marine traffic in the Indian Ocean.

A suspicious dhow was identified and HMS Defender sent a boarding team of Royal Marine Commandos to investigate.

Once the Royal Marines had secured the dhow, a Royal Navy team followed and searched the vessel for illicit cargo. The boarding party discovered 2,500 kg of hashish in 119 bags hidden throughout the dhow.

Defender’s haul of 131 kg of crystal meth in December 2019 was the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) largest ever. It took CMF’s total crystal meth seizures for 2019 to 257 kg, compared to only 9 kg in 2018.

CTF 150 is one of three task forces operating under CMF, a multinational naval partnership that protects 3.2 million square miles of international waters. The 33 nations that comprise CMF share intelligence, assets and capabilities.

The UK has a long-standing maritime security presence in the Gulf and Indian Ocean. Since 1980, ships of both the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary have maintained a presence there 365 days a year.

Commander Richard Hewitt, the Commanding Officer of HMS Defender, says: “Once again Defender has been able to seize a significant amount of narcotics, reinforcing the Royal Navy’s commitment to ensuring maritime security by disrupting the operations of drug smugglers and terrorists.”

The crew of HMS DEFENDER with the 2.5-tonne drug seizure. Photo: LPhot Rory Arnold

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