A US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), patrolling the Middle East, intercepted a fishing vessel trying to smuggle $42 million in illegal drugs while transiting the Gulf of Oman on April 21.
The USS Paul Hamilton was supporting Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, which is one of four task forces under the Combined Maritime Forces, a multinational naval partnership comprising 38 nations.
Before US Navy and Coast Guard members from Paul Hamilton seized the vessel, five smugglers on board attempted to discard 50 bags of methamphetamine weighing 35 pounds each by throwing them overboard. However, some of the bags were recovered from the water.
“This was outstanding work by the entire Paul Hamilton team,” said Capt. Anthony Webber, commander of Task Force 55 and responsible for overseeing U.S. maritime surface operations in the Middle East, adding, “These interdictions remove illicit narcotics from the high seas and help deter destabilizing activity in regional waters.”
The crewmembers on board identified themselves as Iranian nationals. The U.S. Navy and international naval units have seized illegal drugs worth a combined estimated US street value of $1 billion in 2021 and 2022, with maritime forces supporting CTF 150 alone seizing illegal drugs worth a combined estimated U.S. street value of $150 million in 2023.
CTF 150 is responsible for conducting maritime security and counter-terrorism operations in the Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean to disrupt criminal and terrorist organizations and their related illicit activities, including the movement of personnel, weapons, narcotics, and charcoal. These efforts help ensure legitimate commercial shipping transits the region free from non-state threats.
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Combined Maritime Forces is the largest multinational naval partnership in the world whose partner forces operate in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf to promote regional security and stability.
“I am incredibly pleased with the performance of our Sailors,” said Cmdr. Jake Ferrari, commanding officer of Paul Hamilton.
“We remain committed to delivering consistent maritime security and countering illicit activities and contraband smuggling in the region.”
The US Navy and and Bahrain Navy have a history of both working together, with the two of them both undertaking their annual naval exercise, Neon Defender in January 2023. The exercise focused on maritime operations, tactical combat, installation defence, expeditionary operations, and more.
The successful interdiction by the USS Paul Hamilton and other U.S. and international naval units demonstrates the importance of maintaining a strong naval presence in the Middle East and the critical role played by the Combined Maritime Forces in countering drug trafficking and other illicit activities in the region.
The US Navy decommissioned the last patrol craft, two Cyclone-class patrol coastal ships, stationed in Bahrain earlier last month.