Drug smugglers rumbled by Royal Navy frigate bound for Gib
The crew of a Royal Navy warship due in Gibraltar today seized around £3m worth of cannabis resin during a security patrol in the Mediterranean.
Smugglers ferrying the drugs from Morocco to Europe were rumbled by the Portsmouth-based frigate, which sent a Lynx helicopter to investigate and despatched an armed boarding team of Royal Marines.
With the Lynx hovering low overhead, the smugglers ditched bales weighing over tonne into the sea and fled the scene.
The boarding team recovered 1,015kg of cannabis that was bound for mainland Europe.
“As soon as the smugglers were detected it took minutes to launch the ship’s boarding team and intercept and recover the drugs,” said HMS Richmond’s Commanding Officer, Commander Mark Anderson.
HMS Richmond will call into Gibraltar tomorrow to top up on fuel and supplies before continuing on route to the UK following a nine month deployment to the Middle East.
On its way here, the Type 23 Frigate had been conducting maritime security operations as part of the Royal Navy’s long term presence in the region.
“The team remains at high readiness throughout their time onboard for exactly this type of situation,” said Captain Paul Simmons, Royal Marines, who is in charge of the boarding team.
“With the assets available in HMS Richmond we can detect smuggling vessels over large distances, close with the location and quickly move to intercept.”
Since deploying in March she has assisted in the interception of £26.5 million worth of heroin in the Indian Ocean, and disrupted people trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the European Union led “OPERATION SOPHIA”, helping to save hundreds of lives in the process. The ship is due to return to UK waters before Christmas.
Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordaunt said: “This goes to show the value of the Royal Navy, not just keeping key shipping channels safe but stopping the illicit trade in drugs. Our cutting edge warships and highly trained personnel have once again proved their flexibility to adapt their tasking to the war on drugs with good effect.”
During the deployment a five man team from HMS Richmond completed a 10,500 mile charity challenge. Making use of the onboard rowers, bicycles and treadmills, the team rowed, cycled and ran the distance from the UK to the furthest point of their deployment and back again.
The team raised £2,000 to split between the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and Prostate Cymru.
Chief Petty Officer Tim Cox developed the challenge as a way to keep the team fit whilst raising money for charity.
He said: “Deploying for nine months is a long time; it’s important to keep fit and stay motivated, I wanted to stretch a physical challenge over the entire period, with the aim of raising as much money for charity as possible.”
Leading Seaman Taff O’Connell, the youngest member of the charity challenge team, said it was tough but good fun.
He added: “That was the hardest challenge I have done during a deployment, it required real discipline to put in the miles. But raising money for charity made it all worthwhile.”