Sailors and Royal Marines bagged more than a tonne of cannabis when they intercepted drug smugglers on the infamous Hashish Highway.
The team from HMS Montrose recovered bales of hash from the waters of the Gulf of Oman – then found a secret narcotics cache hidden aboard a dhow during a two-day operation which resulted in a haul worth more than £6m on the streets of the UK being seized by the Royal Navy frigate.
It’s the second haul of hashish seized by the Royal Navy in three weeks; HMS Defender captured two and a half tonnes of the drug. And it’s the second success for HMS Montrose, which intercepted a cargo of crystal meth and heroin in October worth around £1m.
“This seizure is another impressive demonstration of the Royal Navy’s vital work around the world,” said Armed Forces Minister James Heappey.
“Our servicemen and women, once again, have proved that their skill and professionalism can disrupt major criminal organisations and continue to keep our citizens safe.”
This week’s success began when the frigate’s Wildcat helicopter – capable of tracking more than 200 vessels simultaneously – came across a dhow moving through waters known to be used by traffickers. By sunrise the next day, the warship had arrived close to the dhow’s location, ready to pounce.
“As the sun rose over the Arabian Sea, several packages could be seen floating in the water near the dhow,” said Lieutenant Commander Charli Martin, Montrose’s Weapon Engineer Officer.
“The packages were recovered and determined to be hashish. Royal Marine Commandos then boarded the dhow, securing it for search by a Royal Navy boarding team.”
The master of the dhow admitted that the packages in the water came from his vessel, and after a thorough search of the dhow, the team found another cache of hashish.
Combined with the drugs recovered from the sea, Montrose total seizure of hashish was 1,045kg – worth an estimated regional wholesale value of US $538,860, or £6m if distributed in Britain.
“I am very proud of the crew of HMS Montrose – last week we were 800 miles away providing maritime security for merchant shipping in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, and this week disrupting the flow of illegal narcotics through the seizure of Hashish worth around £6 million on the UK market,” said Commander Charles Collins, Montrose’s Commanding Officer.
“It was a proper team effort and just shows how HMS Montrose is like a Swiss Army knife of capability, able to react at a moment’s notice to anything we are tasked to do.”
Montrose, which is based long-term in Bahrain as part of the Royal Navy’s Forward Presence vision to deploy warships around the globe for several years at a time, is currently working for an Australian-led international task group, focused on maritime security operations in Middle Eastern waters.
“Fantastic work by the crew of HMS Montrose in tracking this smuggler, stopping them from ditching their cargo, and keeping these drugs from reaching their destination,” said Commodore Ray Leggatt RAN, Commander of Combined Task Force 150.
“With the support of ships like Montrose, the task force continues to apply pressure and disrupt the operations of terrorist and criminal organisations in the region that seek to use the maritime domain for their illegitimate trade.”