SYDNEY: An Australian warship has made its second large drug bust in the Arabian Sea within a week, seizing 31/2 tonnes of hashish with an estimated street value of US$142 million (S$189 million).
It followed HMAS Warramunga making an eight-tonne hashish haul in late December during manoeuvres in the area as part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) naval partnership.
The latest seizure, on Wednesday, was made with support from a British Royal Navy helicopter, with crew from the frigate boarding a vessel in international waters.
HMAS Warramunga commanding officer Dugald Clelland said it was a complex night operation.
“The Royal Navy helicopter was able to cue us onto a suspect vessel, which Warramunga’s boarding party searched in challenging conditions,” he said yesterday. “The boarding party did a first-rate job locating and seizing more than 31/2 tonnes of illicit narcotics.”
Officials did not say where in the Arabian Sea the drugs were seized, where the smuggling vessel was believed to have come from or give its likely destination. The HMAS Warramunga is part of the CMF naval partnership in which 32 nations patrol 6.5 million sq km of international waters.
Their focus is on ensuring the free flow of legitimate commerce, but also to crack down on terrorist activity in the Middle East and Indian Ocean regions.
Meanwhile, millions of dollars worth of cocaine packed in a plastic drum washed up on a seashore in the Philippines on Wednesday.
The source of the cocaine found in Matnog – about 403km southeast of the capital Manila – may be a Taiwan-flagged cargo vessel that was hit by huge waves off the eastern Philippines a day before the cocaine was found, said an anti-narcotics official yesterday.