Royal Navy warship HMS Dragon has sailed into the record books after her seventh drugs bust in the Middle East – bringing her total deployment haul to £145m.
The Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer now holds the record both for the number of successful busts and the total weight of drugs seized by a Royal Navy ship in the Middle East.
Yesterday she completed a seventh bust, swooping on a group of drug smugglers carrying 224kg of heroin.
Dragon was beginning her transit home to the UK yesterday when the crew spotted a suspicious-looking fishing vessel while passing through the Arabian Sea for the final time.
From the ship’s Wildcat helicopter, a Royal Marine sniper kept a close eye on the suspect craft as Dragon’s two fast sea boats launched in darkness towards the vessel and boarded it. After a brief search, the haul of heroin worth £56m was found.
It marks the seventh major drugs bust that Dragon and her crew have delivered in a matter of months – and a major disruption to the funding of terrorist networks and criminal activity.
Since deploying to the Middle East in September last year, HMS Dragon has racked up a record haul of drugs from criminals they have hunted down across the open seas – 15,246kg of hash, 455kg of heroin, and 9kg of crystal meth.
“I was searching the engine space when I noticed a sack underneath one of the fuel tanks.” Said Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) Thomas Jones Leah
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The work of HMS Dragon and her crew in combating this evil trade over the last few weeks has been outstanding and they fully deserve their place in the record books. While we celebrate this success, we recognise there still more criminals out there who are spreading harmful drugs around the world and funding terrorist organisations.”
Working in temperatures in excess of 35 degrees Celsius, HMS Dragon’s determined crew found the drugs hidden beneath a fuel tank on the small fishing boat.
Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) Thomas Jones Leah is one of HMS Dragon’s boarding team. He said: “I was searching the engine space when I noticed a sack underneath one of the fuel tanks. We removed the sack and exposed more sacks, all containing small packages. It was hard work in a hot and small compartment but when it was confirmed it was heroin inside it felt like a job well done.”
The drugs seized by HMS Dragon, which have a combined UK street value of hundreds of millions of pounds, have all been destroyed. It deals a significant blow to the funding of terrorism and criminal activity known to profit from the sale of narcotics.
Commander Michael Carter-Quinn, the Commanding Officer of HMS Dragon, said: “Once again the Dragons have prevented a significant quantity of drugs reaching the streets of the UK. Their relentless determination reflects the Royal Navy’s global commitment towards maritime security, making Britain a safer and more prosperous place.
“Our sailors have worked exceptionally hard in the Gulf. They have done themselves, their families, and the country proud. I am honoured to serve with them every day.”
As HMS Dragon heads home for the UK, this may be the final drugs bust she makes of her deployment. But the Type 45 destroyer now hands over to Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose, who will soon begin her own time on patrol in the Middle East.
Lance Corporal Ben Clark, one of the ship’s Royal Marines from Plymouth-based 42 Commando, said: “It was great to finish our time in the Gulf on such a high by completing yet another drug bust. It was a hot, gruelling morning for the teams as we conducted the search so it was a relief when we found the narcotics so early in the search.”
HMS Dragon has been involved in a range of operations and exercises during her time in the Gulf, working with other navies to build relationships and secure some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.