Australian Frigate Intercepts Huge Stash of Heroin

hmas toowoomba heroin bust
Image: CMF

While supporting Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) off the coast of east Africa, Australia’s Anzac-class frigate HMAS Toowoomba discovered 388 kgs of heroin aboard a dhow.

Commander Cath Hayes, the commanding officer of HMAS Toowoomba, praised her team and her colleagues in the multi-national partnership, Combined Maritime Forces.

“This, our second successful haul, is a direct result of timely intelligence and a well-executed plan developed in conjunction with our international partners in CTF-150 and CMF.”

dhow intercept east africa drugs
Suspicious dhow intercepted, image: CMF

Hayes notes their discovery aboard the dhow wasn’t a random instance of luck however. Intelligence teams from CTF-150 and CMF “provided key pieces of the puzzle which led to this successful intercept. The team exhibited tactical patience, utilizing all available intelligence, ship’s sensors and the embarked S70B-2 helicopter to scour a large search area and intercept the smuggler.”

This is the second successful counter-narcotics interdiction operation for CTF-150 since Commodore Sajid Mahmood SI(M) of the Pakistan Navy took command of the maritime security and counter-terrorism mission on 14 August 2014.

In July, MV Bushehr Amin Darya, alias Al Noor was discovered off Kenya with a cargo of about 370 kgs of heroin. 9 foreigners and 3 Kenyans were arrested as a result of that intercept and the ship was ultimately destroyed by the Kenyan Navy.

As for the dhow captured by HMAS Toowoomba, it will likely be permitted to continue on to its destination. According to an article by Vijay Sakhuja, Director, National Maritime Foundation in New Delhi, the policy of CMF is “to destroy the contraband at sea and allow the crew and the dhows to continue on their voyage.  This is due to operational constraints since escorting the captured vessel back to home countries would entail long legal processes.”

The east African coast, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania, “has emerged as the transshipment hub and some reports suggest that on an average, nearly 24 tons of drugs valued at US $ 190 million are smuggled annually from the region,” adds Sakhuja.