Royal Marines snipers shoot out smugglers’ engines in £60m drug bust
It’s being described as a ‘juddering halt’. That’s the moment drug smugglers’ engines were taken out by commando snipers from the Royal Navy’s HMS Dauntless.
The smugglers had begun to jettison their illegal cargo from their 35ft speedboat, after Dauntless crew came across them on a routine counter-narcotics patrol of the Caribbean Sea. The warship had launched its Wildcat helicopter and Royal Marines sniper team to close in on the suspect craft.
Eleven large bales of cocaine, weighing 330kg, were eventually seized by a US Coast Guard team that dispatched from Dauntless. The haul is estimated to be £60m worth of drugs and takes Dauntless‘ tally to more than £200m worth of illegal narcotics.
HMS Dauntless’ commanding officer, Commander Ben Dorrington, says: “With another bust under the ship’s belt I cannot ask for more from my team. Their work ethos and attention to detail remains second to none which shines through on such interdiction operation such as the last few months.
“The ship’s company have once again proved their resilience whilst in theatre, being able to adapt extremely efficiently to the ever-changing environment we work in.”
Earlier in the same patrol but in a separate operation, suspected smugglers scuttled their speedboat as Dauntless closed in.
After being guided into position by US maritime patrol aircraft, Dauntless deployed its US Coast Guard detachment to board and search the craft – only for it to turn into a rescue operation when the small speed boat was sabotaged by its crew.
With their alleged smuggling mission foiled, cargo lost, and boat sunk, two people were saved. They were brought aboard HMS Dauntless where they received medical treatment, food and water, before being transferred to a US Navy ship the following day.
One of Dauntless’ officers – who cannot be named for operational reasons – says: “It is imperative that the safety of all personnel involved is paramount, including that of the people suspected of transporting illicit contraband.
“To that end it was vital that with their fast-sinking vessel, we suspended the boarding operation in order to rescue the two souls on the small craft to ensure their safety and lives were not put at risk.”
Dauntless deployed to the Caribbean in May to work with British Overseas Territories during the region’s hurricane season, but also to join the international fight against drugs smuggling.
In this role, Dauntless works closely with US authorities – embarking a US Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team known as a law enforcement detachment who are deployed with the authority to board and search suspect vessels.
In June this year, HMS Lancaster seized more than £10m of narcotics and assisted a merchant vessel in three separate incidents in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf. Police in Spain recently released footage of the recent arrest of two smugglers who jumped from the stern of a boxship into the Mediterranean ocean along with bales of cocaine. In that incident, the police recovered 100kgs of cocaine.
All images courtesy of Royal Navy.