HMS Dragon strikes again with eighth drug haul

Destroyer HMS Dragon has dealt her eighth blow to drug smugglers in the Middle East – with the help of the smallest member of the ship’s crew.

The Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer seized 2,540kg of hash from a fishing vessel while the warship was on her way through the Arabian Sea. It comes after Dragon took the record for the highest number of successful busts and the total weight of drugs seized by a Royal Navy ship in the Middle East.

Flying a routine dawn mission, the crew of the ship’s Wildcat helicopter spotted a suspicious-looking boat from the air. HMS Dragon, who was beginning her journey back to the UK, immediately altered course to intercept the vessel.

After a thorough search the ship’s boarding team found bags of hash hidden beneath fishing nets and the boat’s fuel tanks.

Since deploying to the Middle East in September last year, HMS Dragon has now racked up a record haul of drugs from criminals they have hunted down across the open seas – 17,786kg of hash, 455kg of heroin, and 9kg of crystal meth – totalling more than £145m.

As dawn broke, HMS Dragon emerged from the darkness to swoop on the fishing dhow and launch her two fast sea boats packed with sailors and Royal Marines from Plymouth’s 42 Commando. 

Having quickly secured the vessel, the boarding teams found the first haul of illegal drugs underneath the boat’s fishing nets. The crew continued the search to include some of the boat’s more difficult-to-reach areas. 

It fell to the smallest member of HMS Dragon’s boarding team, Engineering Technician Thomas Jones Leah, to crawl into the space beneath the boat’s fuel tanks to conduct the search. He fought through slime and dirt in the confined space to remove false hatches which concealed the bagged narcotics.

 

It was dark down there and pretty disgusting, full of water a slimy. There was very little space beneath the fuel tanks.

Engineering Technician Thomas Jones Leah

ET Jones Leah said: “It was dark down there and pretty disgusting, full of water and slimy. There was very little space beneath the fuel tanks. I was given the task to remove the bags, each weighing about 20kgs. To find and remove these drugs is a great achievement for us and makes the hard work worth it.”

The boarding team worked tirelessly in temperatures of up to 38 degrees Celsius to remove the bags of hash, ready to be transported back to HMS Dragon and destroyed.

Lieutenant Laurie Williams, HMS Dragon’s boarding officer, said: “On getting alongside and talking to the dhow’s crew our suspicions were raised and we found enough evidence to warrant a boarding. The Royal Marine team embarked and quickly secured the vessel.”

During her time in the Middle East, HMS Dragon has worked in support of the Combined Task Force 150, a multi-national effort to disrupt criminals at sea. 

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The work of HMS Dragon and her crew in combating this evil trade over the last few weeks has been outstanding and they fully deserve their place in the record books. While we celebrate this success, we recognise there still more criminals out there who are spreading harmful drugs around the world and funding terrorist organisations.”