Australian warship makes second big drugs bust in Arabian Sea

Parcels of seized narcotics on the deck of a smuggling vessel as HMAS Warramunga’s boarding team conduct an illicit cargo seizure during operations in the Arabian Sea.
Parcels of seized narcotics on the deck of a smuggling vessel as HMAS Warramunga’s boarding team conduct an illicit cargo seizure during operations in the Arabian Sea.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian warship has made its second large drugs bust in the Arabian Sea within a week, seizing 3.5 tonnes of hashish with an estimated street value of US$142 million (S$189 million), officials said Friday (Jan 5).

It followed HMAS Warramunga making an eight-tonne hashish haul in late December during manoeuvres in the area as part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) naval partnership.

The latest seizure occurred on January 3 with support from a British Royal Navy helicopter, with crew from the frigate boarding a suspect vessel in international waters.

HMAS Warramunga commanding officer Dugald Clelland said it was a complex night operation.

"The Royal Navy helicopter was able to cue us onto a suspect vessel, which Warramunga's boarding party searched in challenging conditions," he said.

"The boarding party did a first-rate job locating and seizing more than three-and-a-half tonnes of illicit narcotics."

Officials did not say where in the Arabian sea the drugs were seized, where the smuggling vessel was believed to have come from or give its likely destination.

The HMAS Warramunga is part of the Combined Maritime Forces naval partnership in which 32 nations patrol 6.5 million square kilometres of international waters.

Their focus is on ensuring the free flow of legitimate commerce, but also to crack down on terrorist activity in the Middle East and Indian Ocean regions.