HMS Defender makes second Gulf drugs bust

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender has dealt another blow to the funding of terrorism after seizing 2,500kg of hashish worth at least £10 million in the Indian Ocean.

This is the warship’s 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 keeping the seas of the Gulf secure.

Commander Richard Hewitt, the Commanding Officer of HMS Defender, said: “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.”

Armed Forces Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: “Thanks to the work of HMS Defender and her crew, these drugs will never reach the street and the criminal organisations responsible will be dented financially. The substantial seizures made by the Combined Task Force are testament to the seamless co-operation between our international partners that keeps our citizens safe.”

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

Thanks to the work of HMS Defender and her crew, these drugs will never reach the street and the criminal organisations responsible will be dented financially.

Armed Forces Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan

Before long, a suspicious dhow was identified and HMS Defender sent a boarding team of Royal Marine Commandos, commanded by RM Lieutenant Ben Clink, to investigate.

Lt Clink said: “A strong performance from my team once again proved the versatility of the Royal Marines at sea.”

Once the Royal Marines had secured the dhow, a Royal Navy team followed and searched the vessel for illicit cargo.

The boarding party discovered 2,500kg of hashish in 119 bags hidden throughout the dhow.

Royal Navy Boarding Officer Lieutenant Stuart Campbell said: “This is yet another example of the Royal Navy putting their first-class operational training to use, interrupting drugs traffickers active in the region.”

Defender’s haul of 131kg 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 257kg, compared to only 9kg in 2018.

Captain Sean Stewart, Royal New Zealand Navy, Deputy Commander of CTF 150, said: “Once again, HMS Defender has done some terrific work and proven to be a high value asset to CTF 150. Following two other successful busts by FS Courbet in 2020, we continue to make an impact on terrorist and criminal organisations in the region, accomplishing CTF 150’s mission of restricting their freedom of manouevre in the maritime domain.”

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.

Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose is stationed in the Gulf as part of the Royal Navy’s forward presence, ensuring peace, stability, and the free flow of trade through some of the world’s most vital shipping lanes.