HMCS Regina's crew poses with over 2,500 kilograms of narcotics seized from a dhow during Operation ARTEMIS in the Indian Ocean on April 6 2019. (Cpl. Stuart Evans/BORDEN Imaging Services/DND)

Canadian warship seizes 2.5t of hashish in the Indian Ocean

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The crew of Canadian frigate HMCS Regina has a weighty reason to celebrate after it seized 2,569 kilograms of hashish from a fishing vessel used by drug smugglers off the coast of Oman.

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Regina has been prowling the western Indian Ocean as part of Operation ARTEMIS, Canada’s contribution to the U.S.-led counter-terrorism and maritime security operations off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa, since late March.

On Saturday, the crew of HMCS Regina spotted a suspicious fishing vessel, known as a “dhow,” and deployed its Naval Tactical Operations Group (NTOG) team, an elite Royal Canadian Navy unit that specializes in boarding operations at sea, to investigate further.

HMCS Regina encounters and boards a dhow during Operation ARTEMIS in the Pacific Ocean on Apr. 6, 2019. (Cpl.Stuart Evans/BORDEN Imaging Services/DND)

The boarding team found 119 bags of hashish in the ice hold of the dhow. The narcotics were transferred to HMCS Regina and subsequently destroyed, officials said Tuesday.

“This seizure is a testament to the months of hard work HMCS Regina has conducted in preparation for our operational deployment,” said in a statement Commander Jacob French. “I’m very proud of the professionalism of our NTOG team, as well as our entire ship’s company.”

No arrests were made as a result of the seizure, said Maj. Vincent Bouchard, a spokesperson for the Canadian Joint Operations Command Headquarters.

“The focus of Operation ARTEMIS mission is to help stop terrorism by disrupting illicit drug trafficking,” Bouchard said in an email. “It works to discourage and stop terrorist groups from using the high seas for smuggling weapons, unlawful cargo, and drugs to fund their illegal activities.”

This is the first seizure for HMCS Regina since it joined Operation ARTEMIS on its third deployment to the region. The previous ones were in 2012 and 2014.

The Halifax-class frigate is usually based at the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt in British Columbia on Canada’s Pacific coast. HMCS Regina with 240 crew members left its home port on Feb. 6 and sailed through the Asia-Pacific waters as part of Operation PROJECTION before arriving in the Arabian Sea in late March.

A member of HMCS Regina’s Naval Tactical Operations Group conducts live fire training during Operation PROJECTION Asia Pacific, March 23, 2019. (Cpl. Stuart Evans/BORDEN Imaging Services/DND)

HMCS Regina is operating in the region as part of the Canadian-led Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150). It’s one of the three task forces under Combined Maritime Forces, a U.S.-led naval coalition of 33 nations that works to disrupt terrorist organisations and their related illegal activities in international waters in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean.

“Had CTF 150 not intervened, the hashish would have been sold locally, or in other markets, with the profits benefitting organized crime networks and terrorist organizations,” said in a statement Commodore Darren Garnier, the outgoing Canadian commander of CTF 150.

Since Garnier took command of the task force on Dec. 6, 2018, it has directed eighteen drug seizures, totaling in over 33,000 kg of illegal narcotics seized and destroyed to date, according to CTF 150 statistics.

HMCS Regina is accompanied by Naval Replenishment Unit (NRU) Asterix, and a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CP-140 Aurora, Canada’s strategic patrol and surveillance aircraft.

Commodore Garnier is expected to hand CTF 150 command to the Pakistan Navy on Apr. 11, 2019. HMCS Regina will remain under CTF 150 command until early June, 2019.

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