HMAS Ballarat continues illicit drug seizures in the Middle East

May 13, 2019 – HMAS Ballarat has intercepted another 2.6 tonnes of illicit drugs while conducting a patrol in international waters in the Arabian Sea.

The seizures, including approximately 2.5 tonnes of hashish and 135kg of heroin, were discovered in two vessels suspected of illegal activity on 5 and 7 May 2019.

The vessels, known as dhows, were exhibiting signs of suspicious activity and were subsequently boarded and inspected by the crew of HMAS Ballarat.

Commanding Officer HMAS Ballarat, Commander Paul Johnson, said the seizure was indicative of a highly professional team with well-rehearsed and well-executed plans.

“From the operations room, to our helicopter aircrew and the bridge and boarding teams, it’s a whole ship effort in identifying and closing in on the vessel,” Commander Johnson said.

Boat Coxswain, Leading Seaman Physical Training Instructor Jacob Machen returns with the sea boat loaded with bags of suspected narcotics to transfer to HMAS Ballarat in preparation for their disposal.

“Following boarding and after lengthy inspections of both dhows, narcotics were found to be hidden on board.

“The drugs were seized and transferred back to HMAS Ballarat for the appropriate testing and destruction.”

The two seizures brings the total number of narcotics interdictions by HMAS Ballarat to nine over the period of her current deployment.

Since her departure from Australia in October 2018, Ballarat has seized over 9 tonnes of hashish and approximately 1.4 tonnes of heroin, to the total estimated value of AUD$900 million*.

“These seizures follow a period of routine maintenance in Bahrain, proving that the men and women who serve on Ballarat continue to retain their focus and operate as a highly effective team,” Commander Johnson said.

“We are continuing our mission in support of the Combined Maritime Forces, and our contribution restricts the freedom of movement for drug smugglers through boardings and seizure of illicit substances.”

Currently deployed on Operation Manitou, Ballarat is the 67th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy vessel to the region since 1990.

Operation Manitou is the Australian Government’s contribution to international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East Region.

*Note: This calculation is based on the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Illicit Drug Data Report 2015–16 figures for Cannabis Resin (Hashish) @ AUD$50,000 per kilo (p215) and Heroin @ AUD$300,000 per kilo (p216).