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Royal Navy warship bags fourth drugs bust of 2023

Royal Navy warship bags fourth drugs bust of 2023
20 September 2023
Around £3 million worth of drugs will never reach the streets after Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster delivered her fourth blow to drug runners this year.

Sailors and Royal Marines from the Plymouth warship seized the drugs from a suspect boat after the frigate’s Wildcat helicopter located the vessel in the northern Arabian Sea.

HMS Lancaster launched sea boats with a specialist boarding team from 42 Commando embarked, while the Wildcat circled overhead providing cover with Royal Marine snipers. Once the marines had secured the dhow, Royal Navy sailors came aboard to begin their search for any illegal cargo. An in-depth search of the craft unearthed over 200 packages, containing a total of 260kg of heroin and 200kg of hashish.

The drugs, weighing just under half a tonne, were subsequently transferred to HMS Lancaster, a difficult task in high temperatures and sea swell.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“HMS Lancaster’s four seizures this year show clearly the benefit that our continuous presence in the Gulf is having for regional and global security.

“Our Armed Forces are globally deployed to maintain peace, security and stability and I am proud of how we continue to operate around the world to uphold international laws and keep people safe.”

The ship is deployed to the Middle East on a long-term mission and is part of the UK’s continuous presence in the Gulf. The success came while HMS Lancaster operated with the international Combined Task Force 150 (CTF150), which is focused on anti-smuggling and anti-terrorist operations in the Indian Ocean. HMS Lancaster patrols the waters of the Middle East to counter illicit activity and is at immediate notice to respond to a variety of tasks.

The boarding and seizure involved the entire ship’s company, from the ground crew maintaining the Wildcat, to the caterers who ensured the boarding team remained hydrated and sustained, and the marine engineers who ensured that Lancaster’s sea boats remain operational around the clock for just such an operation.

Commander Chris Sharp, HMS Lancaster’s Commanding Officer said:

“I continue to be proud the teamwork of the whole ship’s company, and their ability to achieve successful interdictions such as this one today.

“It is a true team effort that requires a lot of moving parts to come together as a well-oiled machine, ultimately to stop the distribution of illicit narcotics. This success is shared with our international partners in Combined Task Force 150 who provided essential support to the operation.”

Lancaster’s seizure came soon after a visit to Karachi and an exercise with the Pakistani Navy.

The seizure is one of a series that the ship has conducted this year. Two boardings in June seized £10 million of narcotics, and in May the crew intercepted £2.5 million worth of drugs. That means in 2023, Lancaster has prevented more than £15 million of illicit drugs from reaching their destination. In addition, the ship also intercepted an illegal arms shipment.

CTF150 is currently Commanded by the French Navy, with a Royal Navy contingent working within the international staff.

Captain (French Navy) Yannick Bossu, Commanding officer of CTF150 said:

“This great seizure demonstrates once again the operational effectiveness of Combined Maritime Forces and illustrates the United Kingdom and France’s common commitment to regional maritime security alongside their regional and international partners.”

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