Monday, 20 July 2009

From pirates to smugglers: HMS Cumberland strikes a ‘just blow'

HMS Cumberland has again lived up to her motto ‘Justitia Tenax – Tenacious of Justice’ by returning to the Gulf region and seizing 12.4 tonnes of cannabis resin being smuggled in a dhow. Patrolling the so called ‘Hash Highway’, as part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, she successfully intercepted this, her first seizure of narcotics this deployment.

Cumberland and coalition forces had been covertly tracking a small cargo dhow over night, operating along the shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden. At first light the ship launched both of her Pacific 24 sea boats into high seas, with a Royal Marine boarding team, to investigate the dhow’s intent. With Cumberland’s gun crews providing guard, the heavily armed boats made their way through difficult waters towards the dhow.

Following a brief exchange of words between the dhow and ship, the sea boats approached the cargo vessel, which was also moving significantly in the high sea state, to take it under control and board with specially trained Royal Navy personnel to conduct formal State verification and ensure that her official documentation was in order. During these checks a number of factors made the Navy team suspicious, which led to the decision for an in-depth search of the boat. It was during this search that a secret compartment was found, containing large bales of narcotic material, later identified as cannabis resin and sufficient to make over 35 million ‘spliffs’ (verified with SOCA) .

Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanic Jan Dash, of the Royal Navy boarding team from HMS Cumberland, said after the boarding:

“We discovered this consignment of hashish in a concealed compartment. We’re well trained for this kind of operation, but you don’t expect to find this quantity. Twelve tonnes is a huge amount of drugs and looked like bags of potatoes piled up when we got it on deck. This is our first boarding of the deployment, hopefully the rest of our time in the region will be just as successful and we’ll stop more drugs getting onto the streets.”

Royal Marines Captain Gareth Tennant, the Officer Commanding the Royal Marines embarked in HMS Cumberland said:

“The joint team of Royal Marines and Naval personnel boarded the dhow and safely secured its crew before searching the vessel and making what may be the largest single quantity of drugs discovered in this region. It is certainly the largest quantity I have seen during the boarding operations I have conducted in this region.”

On completion of the operation the resin was destroyed and Cumberland now continues her patrol in the Gulf of Aden.
Captain David Dutton OBE, the Captain of HMS Cumberland, said after the operation:
“This is a significant success for HMS Cumberland and the Coalition Forces. The interception of such a large quantity of hashish before it reached its potential destination in the UK or Europe is unquantifiable. The clear message is that the Royal Navy is here, ready and able to stop the proceeds of smuggling reaching terrorists and insurgents trying to expand their fanatical activities.”

Minister of the Armed Forces, Mr Bill Rammell MP said:
"This seizure has prevented a significant quantity of illegal drugs making it onto the streets and poisoning communities, wherever it was destined. The Royal Navy has yet again demonstrated its commitment to fighting the evil trade in narcotics and its devastating effects."

The Combined Maritime Force Commander stated:
“The seizure of these drugs takes money out of the hands of those financing terrorists throughout the region,” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, Commander, Combined Maritime Forces. “The smugglers need to know that Coalition forces are patrolling the seas and skies above. These efforts send a message to all would-be smugglers that we are here and we won’t tolerate drug trafficking in international waters.”

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