A complex operation using sophisticated technology, information networks and careful surveillance has resulted in Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Ballarat seizing more than 2.1 tonnes of hashish and 345 kilograms of heroin in two boarding operations in the Arabian Sea.
The narcotics seizures, worth approximately $105 million* and $103.5 million* respectively, took place on January 28-29 as part of Operation Manitou.
Ballarat has a Seahawk Romeo Helicopter from 816 Squadron at HMAS Albatross onboard, with these latest hauls following three previous seizures during the ship’s current deployment, totalling 931 kilograms of heroin in December 2018 and 3.1 tonnes of hashish in early January.
Commanding Officer of HMAS Ballarat, Commander Paul Johnson, said Ballarat conducted the flag verification boardings following the observation of two fishing vessels, known as dhows, exhibiting suspicious behaviour.
“The boardings were conducted under the direction of the Combined Maritime Forces in international waters,” Commander Johnson said.
“Ballarat’s success so far has been the result of a complex operation using sophisticated technology, information networks and careful surveillance to detect vessels suspected of narcotics trafficking.
“Once detected, the ship’s boarding teams were dispatched to conduct detailed searches of the vessels.
“All narcotics found were transferred to Ballarat for disposal to disrupt the trafficking of drugs, reduce the funding to terrorist organisations and ensure regional maritime security.”
HMAS Ballarat is deployed to the Middle East under Operation Manitou for counter terrorism and counter piracy operations in the North Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
HMAS Ballarat’s current nine-month deployment is her second to the Middle East and is the 67th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy vessel in the region since 1990.
Operation Manitou is the name of the Australian Government's contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East.
An enhanced security environment ensures Australia's safe and open access to the region while fostering trade and commerce.
*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).