A ROYAL Navy warship has seized nearly 600 kilos of cocaine with a UK street value of £21million after a 12-hour pursuit across the Caribbean.
After receiving information that a suspicious-looking vessel had been spotted by a maritime patrol aircraft, Plymouth-based HMS Argyll, which is on counter-narcotic operations in the region, deployed to intercept it.
Once she closed on the boat, the ship launched her onboard Lynx helicopter to confirm it was acting in a way typical of drug smugglers, before sending her sea boats across to capture the crew and contraband.
Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois said: “The Royal Navy has a hard-earned record of tackling illegal drugs smuggling and we should be extremely proud that HMS Argyll has been involved in a dramatic and very successful operation to disrupt the supply. The operations showed tenacity and professionalism.”
HMS Argyll’s Commanding Officer, Commander Paul Hammond, said: “My team and I knew that a swift and correct interception was required in this case.
"We worked well with our international partners to give ourselves the best chance of success and I used the exceptional capabilities of a modern warship, including sea boats and the Lynx helicopter, to detain the crew and seize the drugs from the target vessel.”
Once onboard the small power boat, known as a go-fast, the US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment and Royal Navy sailors discovered bales of cocaine wrapped in bin bags.
Also on board HMS Argyll were elite Royal Marine maritime snipers from Faslane-based 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group.
Five people also found on board were detained in HMS Argyll and handed over to US justice on Friday (August 22).
While in the Caribbean the Royal Navy works with a team from the US Coastguard which embark on their ships for counter-narcotic operations.
This work is part of Operation Martillo, a 15-nation collaborative effort to deny trans-national criminal organisations air and maritime access to the littoral regions of Central America, and focus on putting a stop to the illegal movement of drugs from South America to the western world.
HMS Argyll has deployed to the Caribbean region to provide reassurance and, if required, humanitarian aid and disaster relief support to the UK’s British Overseas Territories and other islands during the hurricane season.
The Type 23 frigate will also continue to conduct counter narcotics patrols in conjunction with the US Coast Guard and other partner nations to enhance regional security and deter illicit activity.