News story

Royal Navy drugs bust in Caribbean

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

A Royal Navy warship has seized £21 million worth of cocaine after a 12-hour pursuit across the Caribbean.

After receiving information that a suspicious-looking vessel had been spotted by a maritime patrol aircraft, HMS Argyll, which is on counter-narcotics operations in the region, deployed to intercept it.

Argyll’s Lynx helicopter confirmed the vessel was acting in a way typical of being operated by drug smugglers, and her sea boats were sent across to capture the crew and contraband. Once on board, members of a US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment and Royal Navy sailors discovered nearly 600 kilos of cocaine wrapped in bin bags.

Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois said:

The Royal Navy has a hard-earned record of tackling illegal drug smuggling and we should be extremely proud that HMS Argyll has been involved in a dramatic and very successful operation to disrupt the supply. The operation showed tenacity and professionalism.

HMS Argyll’s commanding officer, Commander Paul Hammond, said:

My team and I knew that a swift and correct interception was required in this case. We worked well with our international partners to give ourselves the best chance of success and I used the exceptional capabilities of a modern warship, including sea boats and the Lynx helicopter, to detain the crew and seize the drugs from the target vessel.

Royal Navy sailors transferring the seized cocaine to a US Coast Guard vessel
Royal Navy sailors loading the seized cocaine onto the deck of a US Coast Guard vessel [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Stephen Johncock, Crown copyright]

This work is part of Operation Martillo, a 15-nation collaborative effort to deny transnational criminal organisations air and maritime access to the coastal regions of Central America with the goal of putting a stop to the illegal movement of drugs from South America to the western world.

HMS Argyll will continue to conduct counter-narcotics patrols in conjunction with the US Coast Guard and other partner nations to enhance regional security and deter illicit activity.