New Zealand Frigate Seizes Heroin Worth $235M
Boarding teams from TE KAHA (pictured in the background) boarded a dhow 13 June, finding a cache of narcotics heading for Africa.
16 June 2015
The New Zealand Defence Force frigate HMNZS TE KAHA has dealt drug smugglers in the Western Indian Ocean a blow, seizing almost 260 kilograms of heroin worth NZ$235 million.
The ship has been working with the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a US-led naval partnership which aims to prevent drug and people trafficking, piracy and terrorism, since May.
Early on 8 June, a boarding party from TE KAHA uncovered 139 one-kilogram bags of heroin in hidden compartments on a medium-sized dhow the ship had monitored overnight.
In a second interception on 13 June, TE KAHA’s crew boarded another dhow spotted by a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion. After a seven-hour search, TE KAHA crew discovered 118 kg of heroin.
The total drugs cache recovered by New Zealand forces was 257kg. In the same operation, Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS NEWCASTLE netted 724kg worth an estimated NZ$660 million.
NZDF Maritime Component Commander Commodore John Campbell said the haul was a great outcome for international security and a massive achievement for the TE KAHA crew.
“New Zealand may be a relatively small nation but as good international citizens, we do play our part in maintaining global security.
“The seizure of these drugs has also contributed to the CMF’s efforts to staunch the flow of funds for terrorist activities in the Middle East region and internationally.
“These drugs were bound for Africa and eventually Europe. Our contribution thus assisted the security of both of these regions.”
CDRE Campbell paid tribute to the hard work and perseverance of the crews from TE KAHA and the P-3K2 Orion, many of whom have been away from New Zealand and their families for several months.
“Our people underlie the success of every operation,” CDRE Campbell said. “NZDF has some outstanding people and the success in this globally-significant counter-narcotics operation is proof of that.”
TE KAHA intercepted and searched seven other dhows during patrols off the Horn of Africa and Madagascar in the past five weeks. Her drug haul represents a quarter of the 981 kgs of illegal drugs that have been seized and destroyed since May.
“The deployment of both the Orion and TE KAHA to the CMF demonstrates the cooperative effort that our Navy and Air Force can achieve on operations as well as with other nations. It is a significant contribution to enhance maritime security in the Middle East,” says CDRE Campbell.
The CMF is a 30-nation naval partnership led by the United States that promotes maritime security and seeks to defeat terrorism, prevent piracy and the illegal trafficking of people and drugs. It conducts maritime security operations to prevent terrorists from using the seas to launch an attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other illicit material.
For further information contact Defence Public Affairs: 021 487 980
Frequently Asked Questions re NZDF’s Contribution to the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF)
What is the Combined Maritime Forces?
The CMF is a 30-nation naval partnership led by the United States that promotes maritime security and seeks to defeat terrorism, prevent piracy and the illegal trafficking of people and drugs. It conducts maritime security operations across 2.5 million square miles of international waters in the Middle East.
What kinds of operations do HMNZS TE KAHA and the RNZAF P-3K2 Orion conduct as part of the CMF?
Both TE KAHA and the Orion have been deployed to support counter-terrorism and maritime security operations. TE KAHA, in particular, conducted maritime security operations including counter-narcotics operations to support the CMF’s efforts to staunch the flow of funds for terrorist activities in the Middle East region and internationally.
Can you provide more details about the first drug bust on 8 June 2015?
TE KAHA monitored a medium-sized dhow after spotting it just after sunset on 7 June. At first light the following day, on the suspicion the vessel was stateless, the Commanding Officer authorised the frigate’s crew to board the dhow. The boarding party verified that it appeared stateless and subsequently discovered 139 one-kg bags of heroin in hidden compartments. This marked the Royal New Zealand Navy’s first seizure of illegal drugs.
The drugs were bound for Africa and have an estimated street value of NZ$127 million.
Can you provide more details about the second drug bust on 13 June 2015?
Based on a surveillance report from the RNZAF P-3K2 Orion, the Royal Navy’s HMS RICHMOND tracked and boarded a dhow in the morning of 12 June. However, she was forced to abort the task due to bad weather late in the afternoon.
The CMF subsequently assigned TE KAHA to complete the task. Early in the morning on 13 June, on the suspicion the vessel was stateless, the Commanding Officer authorised the frigate’s crew to board the dhow. The boarding party verified that the vessel appeared stateless and subsequently discovered 118 kg of heroin. The drugs were bound for Africa and are estimated to be worth NZ$108 million.
What are the implications of a vessel suspected to be ‘stateless’?
If a vessel is suspected of being stateless by the warship of a nation-state, the vessel can then be approached and visited in accordance with the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea to determine its Flag State. The convention also allows for vessels to be boarded if they are suspected of piracy, slavery or conducting illegal broadcasts as well as with flag state consent. If a vessel appears stateless and is suspected of being involved in illegal activity, then further searches of the vessel may be conducted.
What happened to the crews of the dhows that have been intercepted and searched by TE KAHA? Have the vessels been impounded?
In all cases, the vessels and their respective crews were released on completion of the boarding.
What happened to the illegal drugs that have been seized by TE KAHA?
All but small samples of the drugs seized by TE KAHA have been destroyed. The samples will be transferred at the first available opportunity to appropriate law enforcement agencies as evidence and for further testing.
How big is TE KAHA’s drug haul in the five weeks that she had been working as part of the CMF?
TE KAHA intercepted and searched nine dhows while working as part of the CMF. Her ship’s crew seized a total of 257 kg of heroin, which is worth approximately NZ$235 million.
TE KAHA’s drug haul formed part of the 981 kg of illegal drugs that had been seized and destroyed since May as part of the CMF operations in the region.
What makes a frigate like TE KAHA suitable for operations such as the one that she just completed for the CMF?
Combat-capable ships like TE KAHA provide the flexibility and adaptability required to tackle global security events, ranging from counter-piracy and transnational crime to protecting our maritime trade routes from disruption.
Through their endurance and sea-keeping characteristics, TE KAHA and TE MANA are able to provide a persistent surveillance capability using the sensors on board the ship and helicopter and then for that information to be used to conduct operations against a vessel trafficking people or illicit materials.
TE KAHA and TE MANA are armed with a five-inch gun, torpedoes, air defence missiles and close-in weapons systems for self-defence. They carry a SH2G Seasprite helicopter armed with air-to-surface missiles. They operate throughout the Asia-Pacific region and globally to protect New Zealand’s interests.
The Government is continuing to invest in the level of flexibility inherent in the ships to enable them to be employed on these types of global security operations.
TE KAHA recently underwent an upgrade to modernise her main propulsion systems, which included an Integrated Propulsion Management System and new diesel main engines, as well as all the household services on board the ship (water, ventilation, air conditioning and electrical power distribution). These new systems have increased the ship’s mobility and endurance. TE MANA is currently undergoing the same upgrade at Devonport Naval Base.
What has the NZDF contributed to the CMF operations in the past?
Officers from the Royal New Zealand Navy commanded Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151), one of three task forces operating under CMF, in 2011 and 2014. TE KAHA’s sister ship TE MANA conducted counter-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean region in late 2013 as part of CTF 151 and NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield. A RNZAF P-3K2 Orion, together with the Royal Australian Navy, helped seize around $280 million worth of hashish off the coast of Somalia last year.
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