Cocaine and heroin weighing just over 10 tonnes has been seized from boats in the Mediterranean and Atlantic ocean over the last few months as a result of National Crime Agency activity and intelligence sharing.
The latest was 1.2 tonnes of cocaine on board a South American fishing vessel, seized by Spanish officers on 12 June after a joint National Crime Agency and Spanish National Police operation, assisted by Venezuelan and US authorities.
Officers boarded the Petra 900 nautical miles south west of the Canary Islands, recovered 40 bales of cocaine hidden on the vessel, and arrested six Venezuelan crew.
Earlier the same month, over a tonne of heroin was seized when the Turkish Navy and Coastguard boarded the Commander Tide, a former oil rig supply vessel, as she sailed towards Turkish waters.
The vessel was taken to a Turkish military base and officers uncovered a concealment in a ballast tank hiding 1071 kilos of heroin. All nine Turkish crew members were arrested.
In May, a South American fishing vessel, the Ali Primera, was boarded by Spanish customs and police south west of the Canary Islands. Around 2.4 tonnes of cocaine was intercepted in the joint operation with Spanish National Police and the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Investigators believe the vessel had sailed from Venezuela towards Europe but was unable to deliver its consignment of drugs and had turned to go back. It was taken to Las Palmas on Gran Canaria where a search recovered 80 bales of cocaine. Seven crew members were arrested.
In February, the Lady Michelle, a fishing vessel registered in St Vincent & Grenadines, was intercepted off the north coast of South America by the US and Trinidad & Tobago coastguards.
Officers seized 185 bales of cocaine weighing 4.2 tonnes and arrested four Guyanese crew members. This consignment is thought to be the biggest drugs seizure in the Atlantic for over 15 years.
At the end of 2016, Spanish National Police and the Moroccan coastguard intercepted fishing vessel Zhar II as it approached Moroccan territorial waters. Officers recovered 2.6 tonnes of cocaine and 10 crew members were arrested.
Chris Farrimond, Deputy Director International from the National Crime Agency said: “As well as protecting the public we know that our interventions put a massive dent in the pockets of organised criminals in South America, Africa and Europe. We cause considerable damage to their cash flow and their credibility with criminal associates around the world, making it much harder for them to enjoy their profits and reinvest in further crime.
“The exploitation of maritime traffic is a border vulnerability which the NCA and its international partners pay close attention to. These operations are possible because of the NCA’s particular capabilities, the coordination and cooperation role played by its international liaison officer network, and its close partnerships with specialist organisations like the the European Maritime Analysis Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N).”