County’s warship in drugs bust

THE county’s ship has intercepted two high-speed smuggling boats carrying an estimated £5.4m of cannabis resin.

HMS Northumberland identified two suspicious high speed boats during a routine patrol in the Gulf of Oman, and embarked on a 30-mile pursuit to intercept them with its Merlin helicopter and combined Royal Navy and Royal Marine boarding teams.

The smugglers threw around 60 bales overboard, seven of which were later recovered by HMS Northumberland’s sea boat and helicopter and found to contain pure cannabis resin with an estimated street value of about £5.4m.

The interception took place on Friday, March 15, about 30 miles south of the Iranian coast and 130 miles North West of Muscat, Oman.

Almost 1,500kg was thrown overboard.

Commodore Simon Ancona RN, commander UK Maritime Component Command, said: “The Royal Navy are out in the middle East, on patrol, looking for pirates, drug runners and terrorists 24/7, 365 days a year.

“This success underlines the enduring UK focus on stability and security in this vital region and it’s what the Royal Navy does when it’s on the beat.”

HMS Northumberland will continue to conduct counter-piracy and counter-narcotic operations in the Indian Ocean. 

The ship is due to return to the UK this spring.

Commander Johnny Ley, staff operations officer on the UK Maritime Component Command, said: “The air in the operations room here as we followed Northumberland’s pursuit in real time was electric.

“When the skiffs were intercepted there was a buzz and a real sense of a job well done.”

HMS Northumberland is operating under the banner of Combined Task Force 150, one of three task forces aimed at defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, stopping the illegal trafficking of people and drugs, and promoting the maritime environment.