Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Melbourne is returning home to Australia after completing more than 50 boarding operations and seizing almost a tonne of heroin during a Middle Eastern deployment.
The guided missile frigate handed over maritime security responsibilities to sister ship, HMAS Darwin, after five months of operations in support of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and more than six months away from home.
Commander Bill Waters, Commanding Officer of Melbourne, commended the ship’s company of 223 officers and sailors for their commitment and efforts that ensured a successful deployment.
“During the five months on operations we confiscated and destroyed 977 kilograms of high grade heroin seized from five different vessels suspected of smuggling illegal narcotics,” he said.
“To put it in perspective, these drugs weighed almost as a much as a small car and had an Australian street value of around $390 million.
“These searches are not easy as the drugs are concealed within difficult to access compartments in small dhows and boarding teams work incredibly hard in arduous conditions to find these drugs.
“The work we are doing with our international CMF partners is making a positive and tangible difference to the security in the Middle East region and is impacting the ability of international terrorist organisations to fund their illegal activities.
“I’m incredibly proud of my ship’s company and their performance over the six months we have been deployed. They have never waivered in their dedication to making meaningful differences in the region.”
During the deployment, Melbourne patrolled more than 37,000 nautical miles, her embarked S-70B Seahawk helicopter flew 350 hours and the galley served more than 100,000 meals to keep the ship operating 24 hours per day.
Additionally, Melbourne was awarded the 2015 Duke of Gloucester Cup for being the best unit across the Royal Australian Navy. This is further testimony to the level of professionalism and dedication Melbourne’s crew has shown throughout the year.
Melbourne has been conducting maritime security operations with the multinational force as part of Combined Task Force 150. The ship’s operations have encompassed the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf during her deployment.
Melbourne tasking was her eighth deployment to the Middle East region and the 61st rotation of a Royal Australian Navy vessel to the region since 1990.