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Major North Atlantic Cocaine Bust By HMS Iron Duke

Ministry Of Defence (UK)

Major drugs bust by HMS Iron Duke

Cocaine with a minimum street value of £40 million has been seized by a Royal Navy warship in the North Atlantic in a major drug bust operation.

In a joint operation with the US Coast Guard on Saturday (28 June), the frigate HMS Iron Duke intercepted an ocean-going speedboat at 1712 BST (1212 local) some hundreds of miles north-east of Barbados in a location which suggested the boat had been en route to Europe or West Africa. The Serious Organised Crime Agency, in association with the British-led Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre in Lisbon, was involved in the coordination of this successful interdiction together with other law enforcement agencies worldwide.

The 50 foot long power boat - of a type commonly referred to as a 'go-fast' - was located by the ship's Lynx helicopter and was instructed by the aircraft to stop. With such a small vessel, so far out to sea and fitting the profile of a 'go-fast', suspicions were immediately raised.

Personnel of the United States Coast Guard detachment on board the frigate subsequently boarded the vessel. It was during this boarding that 45 bales of cocaine, weighing a total of 900kg, were discovered, seized and transferred to HMS Iron Duke, and the boat's crew of five men were detained. The boat itself transpired to be in very poor condition and was actually sinking; it sank later.

As the North Atlantic Patrol vessel, HMS Iron Duke's primary role is to provide a UK presence in the region reassuring and supporting UK Overseas Territories, Commonwealth countries and other friendly nations. This includes being ready to provide assistance in the event of a natural disaster. Iron Duke's deployment lasts for the core hurricane season, from June to October.

Alongside that core role, the ship also has embarked a United States Coast Guard team to conduct Counter Drugs operations. Working alongside US colleagues, the Royal Navy is well placed to assist in restricting the flow of cocaine out of Central America.

All of HMS Iron Duke's Ship's Company played their part in this operation. From the seaboat crew who worked long hours in heavy seas, to the drugs handling team who assisted the US Coast Guard in bringing the cocaine bales on board, all were involved.

Commanding Officer Commander Mark Newland said: "This is a fantastic start to HMS Iron Duke's North Atlantic Deployment. To have had a direct impact on the flow of cocaine into Europe just four days after we arrived in theatre shows the benefit the Royal Navy can have in the area of maritime security and counter drug operations. From the first moment the Lynx Helicopter discovered the suspect vessel, my Ship's Company, working hand in glove with our US Coast Guard colleagues, turned this opportunity into a certainty and ultimately a successful seizure. I am immensely proud of all their efforts."

Capable of operating anywhere in the world, Type 23 frigates are the mainstay of the modern surface fleet. Originally designed for the principal task of anti-submarine warfare, they have evolved into powerful and versatile multi-purpose ships. The effectiveness of these ships is enhanced by their stealth design, which reduces their radar signature significantly. In addition to the war-fighting roles described above, the ship is trained to conduct a wide range of other tasks. These include embargo operations using boarding teams inserted from the ship's boats or helicopter, disaster relief work and surveillance operations.

Client ref 150/2008
COI ref 162905P


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