HMS Lancaster seizes multi-million narcotics haul in Caribbean

HMS Lancaster, a Royal Navy Type 23 frigate, battling narcotics trafficking in the Caribbean as part of her duties assigned to Atlantic Patrol Task (North).

{cough… show of hands… old farts who still call it the West Indies guard ship…}

HMS Lancaster seizes multi-million pound cocaine haul

HMS Lancaster made the bust after the boat – concealed by a tarpaulin – was spotted by a US Customs and Border Agency aircraft in the Caribbean Sea.

HMS Lancaster in the Caribbean Sea. During the six-month deployment Lancaster will visit all of the British Overseas Territories in the region, as well as numerous Commonwealth and Caribbean nations. These visits will provide the opportunity to train with other navies as well as demonstrate the Royal Navy’s continued commitment to the region. In between visits, Lancaster will be conducting counter narcotics patrols in conjunction with the US Coast Guard but will remain at high readiness throughout the deployment to provide support and life saving assistance in the wake of a hurricane or other natural disaster. Image by LA(PHOT) Jay Allen

The Portsmouth-based frigate sped to the area and launched her Lynx helicopter and high-speed pursuit boat to intercept the 30ft vessel with three suspected smugglers on board. As Lancaster approached, the men attempted to dispose of the evidence by throwing one bale of drugs overboard, but these were quickly recovered by the boat crew.

A huge haul of well over 600kgs of cocaine will never reach the streets of the UK after a major bust by Royal Navy warship HMS Lancaster. Image by LA(PHOT) Jay Allen

A total of 22 bales of pure cocaine were seized along with the three men on board who, ultimately, were fully compliant with the Royal Navy and US Coastguard team. The suspected smugglers and cocaine were then handed over to the Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo and then the authorities in Puerto Rico.

The empty drugs boat was subsequently sunk by Royal Navy gunfire to prevent its use in future smuggling operations.

A huge haul of well over 600kgs of cocaine will never reach the streets of the UK after a major bust by Royal Navy warship HMS Lancaster. Image by LA(PHOT) Jay Allen

Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond MP said: “This extraordinary quantity of drugs has been stopped from reaching the streets by the swift actions of the Royal Navy, working closely with the US Coastguard. This is HMS Lancaster’s second counter narcotics patrol in the Caribbean to tackle the drugs trade and the entire ship’s company should be proud of this remarkable achievement.

“This is another example of the skills and capability that mean our Armed Forces are held in high regard by our partners around the world.”

HMS Lancaster is on patrol with a team from the US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment as part of a multi-national effort to combat drug smuggling in the Caribbean.

HMS Lancaster’s Commanding Officer, Commander Steve Moorhouse, said: “This is a great result not only for Lancaster but also everyone involved in the multi-national effort to stem the flow of drugs in the region.

“My ship’s company can be incredibly proud of what they have achieved, their professionalism and teamwork continue to shine, and our close relationship with our partner nations and law enforcement agencies is proving to be hugely successful.”

This is the ship’s third success in as many weeks and follows on from the seizure of a shipment of marijuana with a street value of up to £700,000 and the stopping of another craft with a significant amount of cocaine and heroine on board.

Able Seaman James Duffy, the coxswain of one of Lancaster’s sea boats, and who is from the city of Lancaster, said: “We have all trained really hard to get where we are and have a fantastic relationship with the US coast guard guys. It is an amazing feeling to get such a great bust and stop millions of pounds worth of cocaine hitting the streets.”

The Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate is on her second counter narcotics patrol of the Caribbean region and will continue to combat the illicit smuggling of drugs until the end of the year.

These patrols are part of Operation Martillo, a 15-nation collaborative effort to deny transnational 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 into the Caribbean and onwards to the UK. Over the past year the US Coast Guard has seized 20,500kg of cocaine and 8,500lbs of marijuana during 22 law enforcement interceptions.

A huge haul of well over 600kgs of cocaine will never reach the streets of the UK after a major bust by Royal Navy warship HMS Lancaster. Image by LA(PHOT) Jay Allen

Counter narcotic operations with the USA and other partner nations is one of a range of tasks HMS Lancaster is conducting across the Caribbean in support of British interests. Others include providing reassurance and security for British Overseas Territories and the provision of humanitarian aid and disaster relief during the core hurricane season.

The Royal Navy contributes to counter narcotics across the globe whether it be cannabis and cocaine in the Caribbean or intercepting insurgent heroin traffic using its Sea King Air Surveillance helicopters in Afghanistan.

Mk8 Lynx from 815NAS 202Flt carry out winching training. During the six-month deployment Lancaster will visit all of the British Overseas Territories in the region, as well as numerous Commonwealth and Caribbean nations. These visits will provide the opportunity to train with other navies as well as demonstrate the Royal Navy’s continued commitment to the region. In between visits, Lancaster will be conducting counter narcotics patrols in conjunction with the US Coast Guard but will remain at high readiness throughout the deployment to provide support and life saving assistance in the wake of a hurricane or other natural disaster. Image by LA(PHOT) Jay Allen

http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/News-and-Events/Latest-News/2013/August/14/130814-Lancaster-drug-haul

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