Royal Navy warship HMS Dragon has seized and destroyed ten tonnes of drugs worth more than £75m in one of the most significant drugs busts in the Gulf this year.
In a highly fruitful 48-hour window, the Type 45 destroyer – which will remain on operations in the Gulf throughout the Christmas period – intercepted two boats carrying the huge haul of illicit drugs on notorious drug smuggling route known as the ‘Hash Highway’.
They are the third and fourth hauls for the Portsmouth-based destroyer in the space of a month, taking the total drugs seized to 13.3 tonnes during the first three months of the ship’s deployment.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Seizing four hauls of this magnitude is a remarkable achievement and represents a significant dent in the pockets of criminals who seek to put these drugs onto our streets. The global narcotics network is a scourge that we are absolutely committed to tackling, as part of our commitment to security in the Gulf and across the world.”
Dragon’s sailors and Royal Marines were launched on fast boats to halt the two dhows – a type of vessel common to the Middle East – in two separate missions over a demanding two-day period.
Boarding and painstakingly searching the boats, personnel removed hundreds of sacks of narcotics worth a UK street value of more than £75m.
One of Dragon’s Boarding Officers, Royal Navy Lieutenant Jonathan Bennett, was among those in the heat of the action in both raids.
He said: “To achieve two major drugs busts in under 48 hours is a massive achievement for the team.
“Our Royal Navy and Royal Marines boarding teams worked long hours in very challenging seas to remove nearly 10,000kg of narcotics.
“During the second boarding, the sea deteriorated resulting in increasingly hazardous conditions for our searchers.
“We had to endure heavy seas, large amounts of ship movement and a dangerous working environment, all while removing over 300 heavy bags of narcotics and transporting them back to Dragon successfully.”
As weather conditions worsened, Dragon deployed her Wildcat helicopter to aid the boarding teams’ work. It allowed them to return the drugs back to ship quickly, with their work complete before midnight.
Royal Marine Lieutenant Elliot Titman, from Juliet Company, of Devon-based 42 Commando Royal Marines, said: “These recent operational successes represent a positive start to this deployment and are the result of the efforts of the whole ship together with support from our combined task force partners.
“This deployment is the culmination of a long specialist training programme and the team and I look forward to continuing to deliver on operations in the coming months.”
HMS Dragon left for this deployment in September and has been working in the Middle East as part of the Combined Task Force 150, a multi-national organisation responsible for maintaining security in some of the world’s most important shipping lanes. She will continue to be at sea across Christmas and New Year.