A £6 million cannabis haul has been captured by HMS Montrose in the second major hit within months on the Gulf narcotics trade by the Angus-affiliated warship.
Sailors and Royal Marines bagged more than a tonne of the drug when they intercepted smugglers on the infamous Hashish Highway in the waters of the Gulf of Oman.
The Type 23 Frigate is currently based in Bahrain as part of the Royal Navy’s forward presence vision and working in an Australian-led international task group on maritime security operations in Middle Eastern waters.
The latest success saw bales of hash recovered from the ocean, before the discovery of a secret narcotics cache hidden aboard a dhow during a two-day operation.
Experts said the cannabis would have been worth some £6million if it reached Britain’s streets.
Three weeks ago HMS Defender captured two and a half tonnes of the drug and Montrose’s latest strike follows the interception of a cargo of crystal meth and heroin in October, worth around £1m.
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said: “This seizure is another impressive demonstration of the Royal Navy’s vital work around the world.
“Our servicemen and women, once again, have proved that their skill and professionalism can disrupt major criminal organisations and continue to keep our citizens safe.”
This week’s success began when the frigate’s Wildcat helicopter, capable of tracking more than 200 vessels simultaneously, came across a dhow moving through waters known to be used by traffickers.
By sunrise the next day, the warship had arrived close to the dhow’s location, ready to pounce.
“As the sun rose over the Arabian Sea, several packages could be seen floating in the water near the dhow,” said Lieutenant Commander Charli Martin, Montrose’s weapon engineer officer.
“The packages were recovered and determined to be hashish. Royal Marine Commandos then boarded the dhow, securing it for search by a Royal Navy boarding team.”
The master of the dhow admitted the packages in the water came from his vessel, and after a thorough search of the dhow, the team found another cache of hashish.
Montrose’s Commanding Officer, Commander Charles Collins said: “I am very proud of the crew – last week we were 800 miles away providing maritime security for merchant shipping in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, and this week disrupting the flow of illegal narcotics through the seizure of hashish worth around £6 million on the UK market.
“It was a proper team effort and just shows how HMS Montrose is like a Swiss Army knife of capability, able to react at a moment’s notice to anything we are tasked to do.”