Skip to main content



15 Apr 2024

Royal Navy strikes '33m double drugs blow to Middle East traffickers in 24 hours

Royal Navy strikes '33m double drugs blow to Middle East traffickers in 24 hours
Royal Navy Image
Royal Navy Press Release
Royal Navy warship HMS Lancaster seized nearly £33m of illegal drugs as she struck twice against traffickers in the Middle East inside 24 hours.

In the wake of HMS Trent’s blow to Caribbean traffickers by seizing £17m of illegal narcotics, their colleagues pounced half a world away in the Indian Ocean.

Heroin, hashish and crystal meth were found by Lancaster’s sailors and Royal Marines – nearly four tonnes of illicit narcotics which have now been destroyed.

Operating under the banner of the Canadian-led Combined Task Force 150 – dedicated to stopping criminal activity across more than two million square miles of ocean in the Middle East – the frigate intercepted two suspect vessels.

HMS Lancaster was on the very first day of her security patrol following a period of operational sea training and assurance when her Wildcat helicopter spotted a suspect vessel during a routine sortie.

That was the beginning of an eight-hour operation which saw Royal Marines from 42 Commando secure the vessel, to allow Lancaster’s Royal Navy boarding team to look for any illicit cargo.

An in-depth search recovered nearly 100 packages – each containing smaller parcels, found to contain hashish, heroin and crystal meth upon subsequent testing aboard HMS Lancaster.

The crew were still celebrating their success when the Wildcat helicopter – from 815 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset – launched on a dusk patrol for another sweep of the Indian Ocean.

Once again aircrew came across a suspicious dhow. Lancaster tracked the vessel through the night, then struck at dawn.

And once again the Commandos boarded and secured the dhow before sailors joined them to conduct a comprehensive search.

This time, over six hours, they recovered 2.4 tonnes of hashish – bringing the two-day haul to 3.7 tonnes of illegal drugs.

Collectively the tally from the two drugs hauls comes in at just under £33m according to the National Crime Agency.

“I am exceptionally proud of the entire team in Lancaster executing these two interdictions on the first two days of our deployment.,” said the frigate’s Commanding Officer Commander Chris Sharp.

“Complex interceptions like these in such a challenging environment require true teamwork across the entire ship’s company. This success is shared with our partners in CTF 150 who provided essential support to the operation.”

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps hailed another success for the Navy in the ongoing international fight against trafficking.

 “The fantastic achievements of the crew of HMS Lancaster and Royal Marine Commandos in the Indian Ocean shows the important role our Navy plays policing the oceans. Their relentless effort and professionalism have dealt another decisive blow to criminal networks,” he said.

“Following HMS Trent’s similar success in seizing a substantial amount of drugs on the other side of the world, the Royal Navy continue to lead the UK’s commitment to disrupting drug smugglers across the globe.”


View all News