News story

Nearly £300m of drugs seized by Royal Navy in the Caribbean Sea

A Royal Navy warship seized drugs with a street value of £290.66m in two separate blows to drug runners in the Caribbean.

HMS Trent's crew following their successful drugs busts

British sailors, Royal Marines and a US Coast Guard team on HMS Trent intercepted a suspected smuggling speedboat south of the US Virgin Islands. 

The smugglers began offloading their illegal cargo as they fled towards land, but Trent, her fast sea boats and an American patrol aircraft gave chase – eventually recovering over 2,700kg of cocaine and other drugs, with an estimated street value of £220.56m. 

Secretary of State for Defence, Grant Shapps said: 

This operation sends a clear message: The Royal Navy remains resolute in its efforts to disrupt and dismantle the operations of drug traffickers across the world. 

We will continue to ensure that those who seek to profit from illegal drugs face the full force of justice.

I’d like to congratulate the ship’s company for their invaluable work keeping illegal drugs off our streets.

This was HMS Trent’s second drugs bust in the space of only three weeks, having seized £70.1m of cocaine in a separate operation in January. 

During a high-speed chase, the smugglers tried to offload their illegal cargo, but Royal Marines coxswains and the USCG boarding team closed in, took control of the vessel, and detained four crew members. 

During a ten-hour search, Trent’s 60-strong crew scoured 24 square miles of ocean for the abandoned cargo, eventually retrieving almost 900kg of cocaine. 

A Royal Marine who took part in the operation and cannot be named for operational reasons said: 

This was a challenging operation and required us to push the boats to their limit. 

Despite their best efforts to evade us, they finally gave up the chase and we were able to get alongside and enable members of the US Coast Guard to seize the vessel.

Commanding Officer, Commander Tim Langford, said:  

The achievements of this ship and her crew in the last nine months have been spectacular, and it is brilliant to see the hard work and dedication of this amazing team paying off.   

The team is rightly proud of their efforts, and those of our USCG colleagues.

Trent’s second bust more than tripled her total amount of drugs seized - again in a coordinated operation with the USCG and a US Maritime Patrol Aircraft. 

These successful interceptions not only disrupt criminal networks in the UK but also underscore the Royal Navy’s vital role in maintaining maritime security and upholding international law in the region. 

HMS Trent’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Mike Rydiard, who was in temporary command for the second drugs bust, said:  

I am immensely proud of my combined team of Trent Ship’s company, UCSG team and 47 Commando Royal Marines who carried out the intercept and pursuit in challenging conditions to get the right result.

Published 4 March 2024