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Royal Navy seizes hash haul in dusk raid in Middle East

10 May 2023
Royal Navy warship HMS Lancaster delivered a £2.5m blow to drug-runners, just days after helping the evacuation from Sudan.

Fresh from assisting the UK Government’s operation to evacuate civilians via Port Sudan, the frigate resumed her regular security patrol of the Arabian Sea – subsequently boarding a dhow carrying 3.2 tonnes of hashish.

Lancaster, operating as part of the international Combined Task Force 150 which is dedicated to anti-smuggling and anti-terrorist activities in the region, came across a suspicious boat at last light on Monday.

Lancaster’s Royal Marines detachment, from 42 Commando, near Plymouth, boarded the vessel and immediately discovered a large quantity of packages on the deck.

The commandos were soon joined by a team of sailors who carried out an in-depth search in which nearly 200 packages were discovered, each containing around 11kg of cannabis resin, more commonly known as hashish.

The haul, totalling 3.22 tonnes, was transferred to the warship in an operation which extended long into the night. The drugs – estimated to be worth £2.5m on the UK wholesale market – have now been destroyed.

“From first discovering the ship, then on through the night until the early hours, Lancaster ship’s company worked tirelessly and with little rest to ensure that three tonnes and £2.5m worth of cannabis resin will not reach the streets,” said Warrant Officer Gaz Head, HMS Lancaster’s Executive Warrant Officer.

“Everyone involved, be it the Royal Marine or Royal Navy boarding team, the boat crews, the drugs embarkation team, operators in the operations room, engineers in the ship control centre and on the bridge, or simply those picking up the slack elsewhere in the ship and keeping the internal mechanism moving, should be justly proud of this significant seizure and the effort given that made it possible.”

It’s the first drugs bust by the ship since she arrived in the Middle East in the autumn, taking the place of her sister ship, HMS Montrose, which scored five successes totalling nearly £50m last year.

“Working with HMS Lancaster was quite special, bringing together the UK Component Commander, a UK warship, and the UK command of CTF 150.

Captain James Byron

Earlier this year, Lancaster intercepted another suspicious craft and recovered a substantial illegal weapons haul, including anti-tank missiles.

“I am exceptionally proud of my team for their efforts last night which resulted in over three tonnes of narcotics being seized,” said Commander Tom Johnson, Lancaster’s Commanding Officer.

“This success is shared with our international partners in CTF 150 who provided essential support to the operation”

The Royal Navy are currently leading CTF 150 and Lancaster’s seizure is the latest success for the multinational security mission, which is supported by over three dozen navies and polices more than two million square miles of ocean.

Commanded by the Royal Navy’s Captain James Byron from Bahrain, CTF 150 has seized around £40m of illegal narcotics under his leadership.

“Working with HMS Lancaster was quite special, bringing together the UK Component Commander, a UK warship, and the UK command of CTF 150,” Captain Byron said.

“This operation shows the flexibility and professionalism of HMS Lancaster brilliantly; one day supporting the evacuation from Sudan, and the next countering illicit drugs smuggling.

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