US, UK Warships Battle Drug Smugglers in Middle East

October 11, 2022Carl Prine
Sailors from the Royal Navy frigate Montrose inventory illicit drugs seized from a fishing vessel in international waters in the Gulf of Oman, Oct. 2., 2022. UK Royal Navy photo.

Sailors from the Royal Navy frigate Montrose inventory illicit drugs seized from a fishing vessel in international waters in the Gulf of Oman, Oct. 2., 2022. UK Royal Navy photo.

Continuing their battle against drug smugglers plying the Gulf of Oman, American and British warships have seized narcotics worth $93 million so far in October, officials said.

On Oct. 2, a boarding party from the Royal Navy’s guided-missile frigate Montrose seized a fishing boat in international waters and discovered a crystal methamphetamine cargo worth $45 million, according to US Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain.

“HMS Montrose again proves the value of having a forward-deployed presence in the region,” the Duke-class warship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Claire Thompson, said in a prepared statement. “This shows the professionalism of the boarding team and whole ship's company.” 

drug smugglers

Personnel from the US Coast Guard fast-response cutter Glen Harris inventory illicit drugs seized from a fishing vessel in international waters in the Gulf of Oman, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. US Coast Guard photo.

Ten days later, a boarding party from the US Coast Guard cutter Glen Harris seized a similar fishing boat and discovered 5,000 kilograms of hashish and 800 kilograms of methamphetamine, an illicit shipment worth $48 million.

It's not the first time the fast-response cutter's crew has taken on narcotics traffickers in the Middle East. Between May and late August, the crew interdicted three smuggling vessels, confiscating hashish, meth, and heroin with a total value that also added up to $48 million, according to the US Navy.

US Naval Forces Central Command spokesperson Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told Coffee or Die Magazine that while boarding parties confiscate "the illicit cargo from the fishing vessels," the crews and their boats continue their journeys.

Hawkins said the mariners rarely carry identification documents and the nationality of the crew members often can't be verified.

drug smugglers

A boarding team from the Royal Navy frigate Montrose interdicts a fishing vessel in international waters in the Gulf of Oman, Oct. 2, 2022. UK Royal Navy photo.

Both Montrose and Glen Harris are part of the Saudi-led Combined Maritime Forces patrolling the Gulf of Oman.

The world’s largest naval partnership, with 34 member nations, the CMF’s four task forces sail the Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and Gulf of Aden — 3.2 million square miles of international waters — to fight pirates, crack down on smugglers, and spur regional security cooperation.

While Royal Saudi Naval Forces lead the anti-narcotics campaign and most maritime security patrols in the international waters, Pakistan helms the multinational counterpiracy efforts.

The Kuwait Naval Force is spearheading Persian Gulf operations, and the US Navy is safeguarding the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb, and the Gulf of Aden. The US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain also serves as a headquarters for all the flotillas.

Montrose has been forward-deployed to the Middle East since early 2019. Glen Harris departed its homeport in Key West, Florida, in November to join the 5th Fleet.


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Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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