Navy warships help seize £81m of cocaine in Caribbean

Royal Navy warships have been involved in three drugs busts in the Caribbean which saw £81 million of cocaine seized.

Sailors, Royal Marines and the US Coast Guard team on board support ship RFA Argus hauled 11 bales of cocaine weighing 358kg in the first of three busts in seven days.

Patrol ship HMS Medway and the US Coast Guard then carried out two interceptions within 24 hours in the Caribbean, seizing 650kg of cocaine.

Lieutenant Commander Jim Blythe, the commanding officer of HMS Medway, said: “The Royal Navy and the US Coast Guard have prevented a significant quantity of drugs crossing the Caribbean that could have been destined for the streets of the UK.”

Sailors, Royal Marines and the US Coast Guard team on board support ship RFA Argus in the Caribbean Sea
Sailors, Royal Marines and the US Coast Guard team on board support ship RFA Argus in the Caribbean Sea

Armed forces minister James Heappey said: “The Royal Navy task group deployed to support our overseas territories during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“They stayed in the Caribbean to respond to damage caused by hurricanes and now they’re making drugs busts alongside our friends in the US Coast Guard.

“This is amazing work from our people after months away from home.”

A Navy spokesman said: “In the first success, an American maritime patrol aircraft spotted a suspicious vessel riding low in the water and reported it to Argus, which immediately changed course to investigate.

“The 28,000-tonne vessel used squalls as cover to stay out of sight and avoid raising suspicion – while her boarding team of Royal Marines of 47 Commando and the US Coast Guard prepared to strike.

“On approaching the target craft, the Royal Marines were spotted and the suspect vessel’s crew started to throw their illegal cargo overboard.

Suspected drugs being loaded onto support ship RFA Argus in the Caribbean Sea
Suspected drugs being loaded onto support ship RFA Argus in the Caribbean Sea

“The crew of the intercepted vessel were brought back to RFA Argus along with their seized cargo before being transferred to US Coast Guard cutter Spencer.

“Their boat was subsequently sunk by soldiers from 24 Commando Royal Engineers.”

Medway was involved in intercepting the other two smuggling vessels a few days later, leading to the arrest of six people, the spokesman added.