A US Navy vessel operating as part of a multinational maritime task force seized illicit drugs worth $39 million from a fishing vessel manned by an Iranian crew in international waters in the Gulf of Oman, the US Navy said Tuesday (May 17).
A US Coast Guard team from guided-missile destroyer USS Momsen, operating in support of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), seized 640kg of methamphetamine from the vessel on Monday and Tuesday, it said.
The illegal narcotics were discovered during a flag verification boarding in accordance with international law, it added, noting that the confiscated drugs and fishing vessel remain in US custody.
The vessel was interdicted while transiting international waters along a route historically used by criminal organisations to smuggle people, weapons, narcotics and charcoal, the US Navy said.
Crew members attempted to discard more than 60 bales of the seized drugs as USS Momsen approached, it said.
The vessel’s nine crew members identified themselves as Iranian nationals and will be transferred to a regional nation for repatriation, the Navy said.
Drug busts in regional waters and at air, land and sea ports regularly reveal the involvement of Iran and its proxies in the smuggling of illicit narcotics.
CTF 150 is one of four task forces under the 34-nation maritime Combined Maritime Forces, which is headquartered in Bahrain.
The international naval force has increased regional patrols to locate and disrupt unlawful maritime activity, with CTF 150 conducting nine successful drug seizures in 2022 worth a combined value of $130 million.
A US Coast Guard fast response cutter on Sunday seized illicit narcotics with an estimated street value of $17 million from a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman.
USCGC Glen Harris seized 182kg of heroin, 182kg of methamphetamine, 27kg of amphetamine pills and 568kg of hashish, the US Navy said.
On May 12, USCGC Emlen Tunnell interdicted a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman and seized methamphetamine and hashish worth $10,000.
And on May 5, British frigate HMS Montrose seized 95kg of heroin with an estimated street value of $4 million from a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman.