£33 million of drugs seized by Royal Navy in the Middle East

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Heroin, hashish and crystal meth were found by Lancaster’s sailors and Royal Marines. Photo: UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024 - MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

In another blow to drug smugglers, Royal Navy warship HMS Lancaster seized drugs with a street value of nearly £33 million as she struck twice against traffickers in the Middle East inside 24 hours.

Just weeks after HMS Trent struck a blow to Caribbean traffickers by seizing £17 million of illegal narcotics, their colleagues onboard HMS Lancaster pounced half a world away in the Indian Ocean.

Heroin, hashish and crystal meth were found by Lancaster’s sailors and Royal Marines – with more than two tonnes of the illegal drugs now having been destroyed.

Pictured is HMS Lancaster at sea. Crown copyright. MOD Editorial Licence.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said:

The fantastic achievements of the crew of HMS Lancaster and Royal Marine commandos in the Indian Ocean shows the important role our Navy plays policing the oceans. Their relentless effort and professionalism have dealt another decisive blow to criminal networks.

Following HMS Trent’s similar success in seizing a substantial amount of drugs on the other side of the world, the Royal Navy continue to lead the UK’s commitment to disrupting drug smugglers across the globe.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps. Photographer: Rosie Hallam – UK MOD © Crown copyright. MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

Operating as part of the Canadian-led Combined Task Force 150, which is dedicated to stopping criminal activity across more than million square miles of ocean in the Middle East, HMS Lancaster was on the very first day of her security patrol following a period of training when her Wildcat helicopter spotted a suspect vessel during a routine sortie.

In an operation lasting eight hours, Royal Marines from 42 Commando secured the vessel, allowing Lancaster’s sailors to board the vessel. Following an in-depth search, the team recovered nearly 100 packages containing heroin and crystal meth.

Shortly after this success, the ship’s Wildcat helicopter – from 815 Naval Air Squadron – launched a dusk patrol for another sweep of the Indian Ocean.

Once again aircrew came across a suspicious vessel, with the ship tracking her throughout the night, before commandos boarded in the morning and secured the dhow before sailors joined them to conduct another search.

This time, over six hours, they recovered 2.4 tonnes of hashish – bringing the total haul to 3.7 tonnes of illegal drugs seized.

Collectively the tally from the two drugs hauls had a street value of just under £33m according to the National Crime Agency.

Commanding Officer Commander Chris Sharp said:

I am exceptionally proud of the entire team in Lancaster executing these two interdictions on the first two days of our deployment.

Complex interceptions like these in such a challenging environment require true teamwork across the entire ship’s company. This success is shared with our partners in CTF 150 who provided essential support to the operation.

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