A joint operation involving UK and French law enforcement has resulted in the seizure of around 2.4 tonnes of cocaine from a freighter a few miles off the UK’s south coast.
Acting on intelligence from the National Crime Agency and the French Customs investigation service DNRED, the Moldovan flagged MV Carib Palm was intercepted in the Eastern Channel . It had sailed from Colombia and was on its way to Gdansk in Poland.
The interception, led by French Customs and supported by Border Force and the Royal Navy patrol vessel HMS Severn, was coordinated by the UK's Portsmouth-based National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC) and the Maritime Analysis and Operational Centre - Narcotics (MAOC-N) in Lisbon.
HMS Severn, once tasked by the NMIC, sped to the Dover Straits where she then spotted the vessel and tracked its movements before it was intercepted by the French authorities.
The ship was taken to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer where it was searched by French Customs. The cocaine seizure is believed to be one of the biggest ever made in France.
In the UK the drugs would have had a wholesale value of around £90 million, but if cut and sold at street level purity the haul could have had a potential value in excess of £350 million.
The 12 crew members, who were Georgian, Turkish and Ukrainian, were arrested and now face prosecution in France.
The Commanding Officer of HMS Severn, Lt Cdr Steven Banfield said: “The Royal Navy’s River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels are highly versatile ships operating throughout the year in and around UK waters. This activation highlights the utility of OPV’s and that of the my ships’ company.
“Our varied remit routinely sees the ship working with various organisations and agencies all focused on enforcing UK maritime law.
“In this case, whilst acting as a support unit, the combined operation has been a success and a substantial amount of narcotics has been seized and prevented from being distributed throughout the streets of Europe.”