Australia’s warships operating in the Middle East are turning out to be the scourge of Middle East drug smugglers.
In the latest major bust, HMAS Darwin seized and destroyed almost 650kg of cannabis resin, found in hessian bags marked basmati rice, aboard a dhow intercepted in the Red Sea.
As with the other big drug busts, many of which have involved large quantities of heroin, this was a multinational operation.
The vessel, spotted by a French maritime patrol aircraft, was investigated by the Darwin at the request of the commander of French ship Jean Bart.
Darwin captain Commander Terry Morrison says the drugs could have funded terrorist activities.
“The seizure comes less then a week after HMAS Darwin worked closely with Pakistan to save 13 fishermen shipwrecked and adrift for five days in international waters,” he said in a statement.
In recent busts, HMAS Melbourne, which recently handed over to Darwin, seized two tonnes of cannabis resin from one vessel and a total of 575kg of heroin from two other vessels.
Seized drugs are analysed then destroyed by dumping them in the ocean. Crews of smuggling vessels are sent on their way.
Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of heroin and is also a significant producer of cannabis. There’s rising concern insurgents are trafficking drugs to fund their activities.
Darwin is patrolling as part of the multinational Combined Maritime Forces and Combined Task Force 150 responsible for counter-terrorism maritime operation in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman.
CTF-150 is commanded by Australian Commodore Daryl Bates, who said this seizure reinforced concerns smugglers were active in the Red Sea area.
Darwin is the 57th Australian warship to operate in the Middle East since the 1990 Gulf War.