The guided-missile destroyer Momsen and a U.S. Coast Guard team seized approximately $39 million worth of methamphetamine in the Gulf of Oman this week.
The Momsen was conducting a patrol in international waters May 15-16 when a U.S. Coast Guard interdiction team launched a flag verification boarding of a fishing vessel. The destroyer was operating under Combined Task Force 150, part of Combined Maritime Forces that the U.S. leads and is composed of 34 nations. CTF-150 is one of four task forces now operating in the Mideast to counter maritime threats.
“The vessel was interdicted while transiting international waters along a route historically used by criminal organizations to smuggle people, weapons, narcotics and charcoal,” the Navy said in a news release. “Crew members attempted to discard more than 60 bales of the seized drugs as Momsen approached.”
The fishing vessel’s nine crew members, who said they were Iranian nationals, are headed to a “regional nation for repatriation” while the illicit drugs and vessel are still in U.S. custody, the Navy said.
The Navy ramped up weapon and illegal drug seizures in U.S. 5th Fleet last year. According to the service, the U.S. Navy and partner forces seized more than $193 million worth of illegal drugs last year in 5th Fleet. That totaled a higher total value than the amount confiscated in the preceding four years combined.
Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, told Navy Times the previous record for total value of drugs seized in the past seven years was $70 million in 2018. The increase is attributed to additional presence in the region.
“We have enhanced our presence and vigilance across regional waters,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, said in a January news release. “This reflects our continued commitment to confront destabilizing activities that disrupt the rules-based international order which underlies maritime security in the Middle East.”
Combined Task Force 150 has seized $130 million worth of heroin, methamphetamine, amphetamine pills and hashish this year.