Dramatic images show the torching of a smugglers’ boat carrying cocaine with a street value of around £24 million following a tense chase with a naval warship in the Caribbean.
More than 400kg of drugs were seized from the vessel, which is believed to have come from South America, and three crew members were detained before it was destroyed.
Following an overnight operation to secure the contraband – estimated by the National Crime Agency to be worth around £24 million had it reached Britain’s streets – the vessel was sunk by Medway’s gunnery team.
The ship, which is thought to have travelled along a common smuggling route, was boarded by officers after a pursuit and found to contain several large packages of drugs, the Royal Navy said.
“To secure an interdiction on our first day dedicated to this type of operation in this period has been tremendous,” said Commander Chris Hollingworth, commanding officer of Medway.
“Everyone involved demonstrated their professionalism during a challenging pursuit.
“It might be the first, but we’re going to make sure that it won’t be the last, and I speak on behalf of everyone here in saying this has galvanised our determination to succeed.”
The destruction of the vessel, which is normal for this type of operation, ensures it is no longer used for illegal activity while also providing gunnery training.
“Together with our partners on board Medway and up in the skies above us, we’re able to smash a hole in the supply chain and disrupt the movement of these harmful drugs before they have the chance to harm people at home and abroad,” Cdr Hollingworth said.
“I’m exceptionally proud of the collective effort of my ship’s company and our colleagues from the US Coast Guard for their proactive attitude and total commitment to the task.”