Sailors from The Royal Navy Portsmouth-based HMS Dragon intercepted a suspicious vessel in the gulf waters while on patrol in the area of the Middle East known as the Hash Highway. On board they found 148 bags of hashish weighing 3,048kg.
A Royal Navy spokesman said: “Swooping into action, sailors and Royal Marines from HMS Dragon launched their fast boats to intercept and board the vessel, before conducting a painstaking search of its compartments.”
Lieutenant Laurie Williams, the Type-45 destroyer’s boarding officer, said: “During our initial search, it became apparent there were a number of reasons to suspect the dhow could be involved in illicit activity. This led to a search of the vessel, where my team managed to find the concealed drugs. This success validates the significant hard work of all on board to ensure we were in the right place, with the right training and equipment and intelligence to achieve this result, one of the largest recent finds within this region.”
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Alongside keeping key shipping channels safe, countering piracy and providing disaster relief, the Royal Navy makes a significant contribution to global security by tackling the illicit drugs trade.”
The Royal Navy spokesman explained that the Hash Highway runs from Afghanistan by land through Iran or Pakistan and then across the sea to countries in east Africa and the Middle East. He added: “Profits from drug smuggling are a known source funding for terrorist organisations and criminal networks.”
Commander Mike Carter-Quinn, HMS Dragon’s commanding officer, said: “This seizure is testament not only to days of focused hard work, but also to months of effort in preparation for HMS Dragon’s operational deployment.”
After the correct intelligence and assessment was made on the vessel, the Royal Navy decided to intercept the dhow. From that point onward, the naval commander on board the ship sent the Royal Marines boarding teams, along with two Royal Navy police officers, to inspect the cargo on the vessel.
The Royal Marines boarding teams are a highly trained elite unit within the British Navy. They are trained to intercept and board moving vessels whilst at sea. They specialise in close quarter combat and a number of insertion methods onto vessels. They can often be seen training on the River Thames and Portsmouth, and indeed working with the Special Boat Service (SBS) to fine tune their skills for such events like that on the gulf.
It is a large seizure of drugs, and a job very well done by the Royal Navy. Because, indeed, if this had not been stopped in the gulf it would have made it through the notorious lower Sahel region of Africa. Then be smuggled into Europe, in turn financing both crime and terrorism. I have often said, and will continue to say, that if you want to stop terrorism especially within the Sahel region of Africa, the first point should be identifying the revenue which these groups can use to recruit new members. Then put a stop to such revenue. And part of that revenue is undoubtedly the smuggling of drugs through Africa and into mainland Europe.