NORTHUMBERLAND’S namesake warship has seized an estimated £5.4million of cannabis resin.
HMS Northumberland carried out the drugs bust after a 30-mile pursuit in the Gulf of Oman.
The Royal Navy frigate was on routine patrol when her crew spotted two suspicious high-speed skiffs. They immediately gave chase and intercepted the skiffs using the ship’s Merlin helicopter and combined Royal Navy and Royal Marine boarding teams.
While in pursuit of the smugglers, about 60 bales were thrown overboard. Seven were later recovered by HMS Northumberland’s sea boat and helicopter and were found to contain pure cannabis resin. About 1,500kg was thrown overboard, with an estimated street value of about £5.4million.
The interception took place about 30 miles south of Iran and 130 miles north west of Muscat, Oman.
Staff Operations Officer on the UK Maritime Component Command Commander Johnny Ley 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.”
The ship, which has been granted the Freedom of Northumberland and Freedom of the former Castle Morpeth Borough, is operating under the banner of the Combined Task Force 150, co-ordinated by the international Combined Maritime Forces.
The task force aims to tackle terrorism, piracy and the trafficking of people and drugs, and create a safe maritime environment for people on legitimate business.
Commodore Simon Ancona, of the UK Maritime Component Command, said: “The Royal Navy is 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 as part of the task force until it returns to the UK later this spring.
During its tour, crew members have also taken part in community projects.