Saturday, November 21, 2020

From Obstructing Pirates and Preventing Terrorist Activity to Seizing Drugs Out on the Ocean

All in a Day's Work for the Combined Naval Task Forces
Shipping News Feature

INDIAN OCEAN – We have commented recently on how the roles of the Combined Naval Task Forces, charged principally with anti-piracy operations in the region, have been changing of late. Success in quelling pirate attacks has often meant an extension of their roles, with recent activity including rescuing the injured and assisting those in danger at sea.

Now a French ship operating in support of a Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) task force has seized 456 kilogrammes of methamphetamine and 364 kilogrammes of heroin, marking the third CMF drugs seizure in the last two months.

While operating in direct support of CMF’s Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), the French naval frigate Floréal captured the drugs from a suspicious vessel as part of a counter-narcotics operation in the Northern Indian Ocean, Nov. 18, 2020. The seizure occurred on a route commonly known for drug smuggling, and the narcotics were openly visible on the stateless vessel.

A delighted commander of the Task Force, Rear Admiral Sulieman Alfakeeh of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, commented:

“In less than two months, CTF 150 has successfully intercepted over two tonnes of methamphetamine and hashish, and over 300 kilogrammes of heroin. I would like to thank all of the sailors from our partner navies, as well as my staff at CTF 150 for making these operations a success, and stopping these drugs from contributing to the funding of criminal activity and terrorism.”

This operation is the third CMF drug bust since October, with Floréal seizing over 1.5 tonnes of hashish worth $8 million on 8 November, and the Royal Navy ship HMS Montrose seizing 458 kilogrammes methamphetamine in what remains CMF’s largest methamphetamine seizure to date. Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo, CMF Commander, observed:

“Despite the impact and challenges associated with Covid-19, Rear Admiral Alfakeeh has ensured CTF 150 maintained a vigilant watch and enhanced maritime security resulting in these successful narcotics seizures.”

Somewhat ironically even the very act of fighting crime far out in the ocean is touched by the current pandemic and in order to mitigate the risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19, the boarding team took the necessary precautions to decontaminate all personnel and contraband following the seizure.

CTF 150 is currently led by the Royal Saudi Naval Force, the second time that the country’s Navy has led the task force and it is part of the overall Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a multinational maritime partnership which exists to counter illicit non-state actors on the high seas, promoting security, stability and prosperity in the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman.

The specific role of CTF 150 is to disrupt and deny criminal and terrorist organisations operating outside of the Arabian Gulf, to ensure that legitimate commercial shipping can transit the region, free from non-state threats.

Photo: One of the suspect packages is removed from the hold of the arrested vessel by a sailor suitably adorned with PPE.