News story

Navy ship in Caribbean drug bust

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Over a tonne of cocaine has been seized by Royal Navy support ship Wave Knight and the US Coast Guard.

The crew of Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessel Wave Knight have assisted with an international counter-narcotics operation in the Caribbean, seizing an illicit cargo of cocaine with a UK wholesale value of over £60 million.

The international operation involved a US Coast Guard patrol aircraft, Wave Knight and a US Coast Guard helicopter, who together forced a speedboat to stop in international waters south of the Dominican Republic.

The Coast Guard helicopter first fired warning shots in an attempt to stop the speedboat, but when the suspected smugglers started to throw the bales of drugs overboard the decision was made to use disabling fire on the vessel.

This allowed Wave Knight to quickly launch its own small boat with a US Coast Guard team to board and question those on the suspect vessel. At the same time, a second boat from the RFA vessel recovered 45 bales of cocaine which had been thrown from the speedboat.

The 25-foot speedboat (right) seized by the United States Coast Guard and RFA Wave Knight
The 25-foot speedboat (right) seized by the United States Coast Guard and RFA Wave Knight [Picture: Mark Amato, via MOD]

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:

Once again the Royal Navy has played a key role in the international mission to tackle the drugs trade from the Caribbean. The crew of RFA Wave Knight should be proud of their role in seizing such a massive amount of drugs, made more impressive as it is their second successful operation within a month.

Approximately 1.25 tonnes of cocaine was seized and 4 people were detained. The cocaine and detainees were handed over to the US authorities off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Captain Duncan Lamb, commanding officer of RFA Wave Knight, said:

RFA Wave Knight, working seamlessly with the US Coast Guard, has demonstrated her capability and resolve to disrupt the illicit drug trade. On this occasion, a significant amount of Class A drugs has been stopped from reaching the streets of the UK and USA.

This success follows closely on from Wave Knight’s seizure of marijuana on 26 December. The ship is deployed in support of Operation Martillo, a 15-nation collaborative effort to deny transnational criminal organisations air and maritime access to the coastal regions of Central America, and to disrupt the illegal movement of drugs from South America into the Caribbean and onwards to the UK.

Bales of cocaine
Bales of cocaine seized in the haul [Picture: Mark Amato, via MOD]