A Royal Navy warship made £60m drugs bust and forced traffickers to scuttle their speedboat in a double-blow to Caribbean drug-runners.
Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Dauntless took her tally to more than £200m worth of illegal narcotics intercepted after hunting down a 35ft power boat.
During a routine counter-narcotics patrol of the Caribbean Sea, Dauntless launched her Wildcat helicopter and Royal Marines sniper team to close in on the suspect craft.
When smugglers began to jettison their illegal cargo, their engines were taken out with precision by the commando snipers, bringing the boat to a juddering halt.
That allowed a U.S. Coast Guard team to be dispatched from Dauntless and 11 large bales of cocaine weighing 330kg to be seized.
HMS Dauntless’ Commanding Officer, Commander Ben Dorrington, said: “With another bust under the ship’s belt I cannot ask for more from my team. Their work ethos and attention to detail remains second to none which shines through on such interdiction operation such as the last few months.”
He added: “The ship’s company have once again proved their resilience whilst in theatre, being able to adapt extremely efficiently to the ever-changing environment we work in.”
Earlier in the same patrol but in a separate operation, suspected smugglers scuttled their speedboat as Dauntless closed in.
After being guided into position by U.S. maritime patrol aircraft, Dauntless deployed her U.S. Coast Guard detachment to board and search the craft – only for it to turn into a rescue operation when the small speed boat was sabotaged by its crew.
With their alleged smuggling mission foiled, cargo lost, and boat sunk, two people were saved, brought aboard HMS Dauntless where they received medical treatment, food and water, before being transferred to a U.S. Navy ship the following day.
One of Dauntless’ officers – who cannot be named for operational reasons – said: “It is imperative that the safety of all personnel involved is paramount, including that of the people suspected of transporting illicit contraband.
“To that end it was vital that with their fast-sinking vessel, we suspended the boarding operation in order to rescue the two souls on the small craft to ensure their safety and lives were not put at risk.”
Dauntless deployed to the Caribbean in May to work with British Overseas Territories during the region’s hurricane season, but also to join the international fight against drugs smuggling.
In this role, Dauntless works closely with U.S. authorities – embarking a U.S. Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team known as a law enforcement detachment who are deployed with the authority to board and search suspect vessels.
Along with the ship’s powerful array of sensors and radars, Dauntless has a Wildcat helicopter and Royal Marines sniper team from 42 Commando who provide reconnaissance, surveillance, and aerial support during complex and often dangerous boarding operations.
This combined Dauntless team landed a £140m drugs bust during the summer, seizing 1,230kg from a drug running go-fast. Adding to their tally and proving their ability to operate seamlessly with U.S. authorities, the ship later tracked a suspicious aircraft flying from Venezuela, alerting ground forces who seized a further 550kg of cocaine.