Two Milford Haven sailors have played their part in a multi-million pound cannabis bust.
Gareth Jones and Jonathan Hitchcock, marine engineers onboard Royal Navy frigate HMS Northumberland, were recently involved when two high-speed drug smuggling skiffs were intercepted in the Gulf of Oman.
The ships, carrying an estimated £5.4m of cannabis resin, were spotted during a routine patrol and the Plymouth-based frigate embarked on a 30 mile pursuit before intercepting them with her Merlin helicopter and combined Royal Navy and Marine boarding teams. Jonathan said: "Our involvement was crucial due to the fact the seaboats were kept at a high state of readiness and we were on constant alert to launch the seaboats and carry out our final machinery and safety checks to allow the boarding teams to have confidence in their pursuit of the drug smugglers."
While in pursuit of the smugglers around 60 bales of drugs -almost 1,500kg - were thrown overboard and seven were recovered and found to contain pure cannabis resin. Commander Johnny Ley, Staff Operations Officer on the UK Maritime Component Command said: "The air in the operations room here as we followed Northumberland's pursuit in real time was electric. When the skiffs were intercepted there was a buzz and a real sense of a job well done."
HMS Northumberland is operating under the banner of Combined Task Force 150, one of three task forces coordinated by the international Combined Maritime Forces, with the aim of defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, stopping the illegal trafficking of people and drugs, and promoting the maritime environment as a safe place for mariners with legitimate business.
HMS Northumberland will continue on operations until returning in May. After eight months away, and Gareth and Jonathan are looking forward to spending some well deserved time with their family and friends, especially Gareth's partner Sarah and son Ethan and Jonathan's wife Staci and daughters Grace and Ruby.