The Royal Australian Navy frigate, HMAS Ballarat, has seized more than 900 kilos of heroin worth approximately $279 million* during two boarding operations that took place 21–23 December 2018 as part of Operation MANITOU.

Royal Australian Navy seizes illegal drug shipments in the Middle East
Caption: HMAS Ballarat's Boarding Party conducts a flag verification boarding on a suspicious dhow as part of Operation MANITOU

Ballarat conducted flag verification checks by boarding vessels of interest, under the direction of the Combined Maritime Forces’ (CMF) Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 in international waters in the Arabian Sea. The fishing vessels, known as dhows, were believed to be engaging in illegal activity.

The boarding team discovered and seized illegal narcotics on both dhows. 165 kilos of heroin was found on the first dhow, and 766 kg on a second. The drugs were transferred to Ballarat for disposal.

Commanding Officer of HMAS Ballarat, Commander Paul Johnson said, “A thorough search by the boarding parties uncovered a large quantity of heroin intended for distribution around the world. By keeping these illegal narcotics out of the hands of those that exploit others, we improve the lives of those in the region.”

“The crew is well prepared for these activities and I am glad that they have been able to showcase their professionalism in supporting security in this complex maritime environment”.

Caption: Members of HMAS Ballarat's Boarding Party layout in preparation for disposal, suspected narcotics found during a flag verification boarding on a suspicious dhow

Commander of Australian Forces in the Middle East, Rear Admiral Jaimie Hatcher, AM, RAN said, “These drug seizures support Australia's long-term mission to ensure maritime security, stability and prosperity in the region,”

“This operation will impact on the flow of narcotics around the world and the use of drug money to fund extremist organisations.

"This is a promising start to Ballarat’s work here and the crew should be very pleased with this excellent result.”

These are the first seizures Ballarat has made since starting operations in the Middle East region during November 2018 in support of Operation MANITOU.

*Note: This calculation is a 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).