HMAS Ballarat, including a Seahawk Romeo Helicopter from 816 Squadron at HMAS Albatross, has made another seizure in the Middle East region, this time claiming more than 3.1 tonnes of hashish worth about $155 million.
The boarding operation that took place between January 8-9 in international waters in the Arabian Sea, the crew’s third major seizure, after it secured 900 kilos of heroin worth approximately $279 million* during two boarding operations that took place between December 21-23.
In the latest incident a fishing vessel, known as a dhow, was believed to be engaged in illegal activity when Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) directed Ballarat to board the vessel and conduct a flag verification check.
Ballarat, a Royal Australian Navy frigate, boarding team searched the dhow and seized the hashish.
The drugs were transferred to Ballarat for disposal.
HMAS Ballarat commanding officer, Commander Paul Johnson, said the boarding team conducted the night-time boarding professionally.
The team found the drugs hidden in voids around the vessel.
“The seizure is a reflection of the continued trade in illegal narcotics which has the potential to fund terrorist groups across the region,” Commander Johnson said.
“HMAS Ballarat is contributing to the Australian Government’s mission to ensure Middle East regional maritime security. Ballarat and her crew remain ready to continue that mission during our deployment on Operation Manitou.”
Commander CTF 150, Commodore Darren Garnier of the Royal Canadian Navy, said the seizure would disrupt revenue supplies to terrorist organisations and was a good start to the new year.
“As CTF 150 marks its sixth seizure in six weeks, our successes demonstrate the value of the coordinated efforts of the CMF international naval partnerships,” Commodore Garnier said.
“As a team, we are actively disrupting the use of the high seas by terrorist organisations and denying them freedom of action in order to promote maritime stability and prosperity in the region.”
Operation Manitou is Australia’s contribution to Combined Maritime Forces operations, a 33-navy partnership which promotes maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East region.
*Note: This calculation is based on the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Illicit Drug Data Report 2015-16 figures for Cannabis Resin (hashish) at AUD$50,000 per kilo (p215) and heroin at AUD$300,000 per kilo (p216).