Australian warship HMAS Melbourne has seized 151kg of heroin from a smuggling vessel off the east coast of Africa.

The Melbourne's boarding party found the drugs, worth an estimated $44.5 million, after the crew of the fishing vessel raised suspicions that they might be engaged in illegal activity.

Australian warship HMAS Melbourne makes 2nd big drug bust


This is the second drug bust for Melbourne on her current Middle East deployment and follows the discovery of 427kg of heroin aboard another smuggling vessel in October.

Melbourne officer Commander Bill Waters said the smugglers had gone to considerable effort to conceal the drugs.

"On first inspection there were no obvious signs of smuggling," he said in a statement."Our boarding teams are trained to a very high standard and with determination and diligence we were able to locate and extract the narcotics from hidden compartments within the vessel."

The drugs were transferred to Melbourne for testing, weighing and destruction. Commander Waters said the seizure significantly curtailed funding of terrorism in the region.

"We are not only stopping the drugs from reaching communities, we are also restricting the funding for international terrorism which comes from the illegal trade of these types of narcotics," he said.

Melbourne is on her eighth deployment to the Middle East region as Australia's contribution to maritime security operations.

Related news: HMAS Melbourne seizes 427kg of heroin off smuggling ship in Indian Ocean