UK Government

Ministry Of Defence: Navy’s record-breaking drug-buster returns home

News   •   Dec 11, 2009 11:37 GMT

Royal Navy warship HMS Iron Duke, which made a record-breaking drugs seizure in the North Atlantic in September, returns to her Portsmouth home on Monday (December 14).

The Type 23 frigate found 5.5 tonnes of pure cocaine with an estimated UK value of £240m in a converted fishing vessel off South America during a six-month deployment to the Caribbean. It was the largest ever cocaine seizure by the Royal Navy.

The suspect vessel was caught in a night-time operation involving the ship’s Lynx helicopter and sea boats.  United States Coast Guard personnel conducted an armed boarding and the boat was later destroyed by Iron Duke as it posed a hazard to shipping.

HMS Iron Duke also made three other notable cocaine interceptions in the region with a combined total of 6.4 tonnes - twice the amount seized in the whole of England and Wales in 2008.

As well as counter-drugs operations, the deployment included visits to all the UK overseas territories in the region, providing visible UK support to the islands during the hurricane season.

Iron Duke’s last task on deployment was to assist in providing maritime security for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago at the end of November. More than 50 heads of state met in the capital, Port of Spain, for three days of talks.

Working alongside other Commonwealth navies and coastguards, her modern sensor systems were used to monitor air and shipping movements in the area. The ship also hosted a visit by Baroness Kinnock, Foreign Office Minister, and several of the ship’s company had the opportunity to meet His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh at a reception in Tobago.

Iron Duke’s passage home underwent a short-notice diversion when she went to the aid of a motor cruiser with a seriously ill crew member.  After a fast passage across the Atlantic, the ship’s helicopter winched the crew member off the “Ocean Mercury”, taking him ashore to the Cape Verde Islands where he is expected to make a full recovery.

The return marks the end of Iron Duke’s second deployment to the region in 18 months.

Her Commanding Officer, Commander Andrew Stacey, said: “This has been another busy and very successful deployment for HMS Iron Duke.  As we return home to Portsmouth, my team are very proud of all we have achieved and are now looking forward to a well-earned Christmas break.”


Note to editors:  Media are invited to the homecoming on December 14. Those wishing to attend must arrive on foot through Victory Gate, Portsmouth Naval Base, by 9.15am. Names of media attending must be with Press Officer Simon Smith on 02392 723025 by 3pm on December 11.

For further information contact Press Officer Simon Smith on 02392 723025


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