The ship, which had US Coast Guard Law Enforcement and Royal Navy personnel on board, chased the suspect vessel – called Miss Kameney – under cover of darkness on Boxing Day (26 December).
The US Coast Guard officers then boarded the boat and found quarter-of-a-tonne of marijuana with a street value of around £1 million hidden in sacks.
The crew of 5 were then detained on RFA Wave Knight to be delivered to US authorities in the Dominican Republic while a joint riding crew of US Coast Guard and RFA personnel took control of the Miss Kameney in order to transport her illegal cargo to shore.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:
The operation, successfully conducted when most of us were enjoying a Christmas break, is testament to the hard work of our service personnel and the demanding tasks we ask them to carry out.
I am proud of the work of RFA Wave Knight and the role her crew has played in stopping these drugs reaching the streets.
This operation is another remarkable success for the ship’s company.
The skill and dedication shown by RFA Wave Knight and HMS Lancaster over the last year has hit the mark and demonstrates the Royal Navy’s commitment to the international effort to combat the illicit sea trade in drugs which ultimately affects us all.
This is the second large-scale drugs bust for RFA Wave Knight during her year deployed in the region where she has been working alongside Royal Navy frigate HMS Lancaster and international authorities to disrupt illegal activities in the Caribbean.
This is part of the UK’s year-round commitment to the region in support of the overseas territories, disaster relief and counter-narcotics operations.
Captain Duncan Lamb, commanding officer of RFA Wave Knight, said:
The entire ship’s company – Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Navy and US Law Enforcement Team – as well as HQ and prosecuting staff ashore in mainland USA are delighted with this result.
It has been a truly international team effort and I acknowledge the fact that a number of shore personnel have been recalled off leave to provide the necessary support. This operation is a notable disruption to the regional drug trade.
This latest success was in support of Operation Martillo – a 15-nation collaborative effort to deny transnational criminal organisations air and maritime access to the littoral regions of Central America and focus on putting a stop to the illegal movement of drugs from South America into the Caribbean and onwards to the UK.
RFA Wave Knight was involved in several drug bust operations during 2013, with 3 tonnes of drug disruptions previously attributed to her name.
HMS Lancaster, which has since returned to Portsmouth, also made a significant contribution, with more than 1.2 tonnes of marijuana and 400 kilograms of cocaine seized.
The RFA supports Royal Naval warships around the world, providing fuel, stores, ammunition, and medical and forward repair support.
A fast fleet tanker, RFA Wave Knight has 77 RFA personnel and 2 Royal Navy sailors on board, as well as an 11-strong US Law Enforcement Team engaged in counter-narcotics work in the Caribbean.