Crew members on board HMCS Regina seized 9,000 kilograms of hashish being transported along a drug route in the Arabian Sea during its most recent deployment, which Cmdr. Jacob French said prevents extremist networks from getting the drug profits.
HMCS Regina spent April and May — two months of its recent seven-month deployment — in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea as part of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Operation ARTEMIS, which focuses on counter-terrorism and maritime security in the region.
French, HMCS Regina’s commanding officer, said this operation is “part of an effort to make sure the maritime domain does not become a place for extremist networks to exploit … It’s disrupting the network and taking money out of the hands of extremists and terrorists.”
In total, the crew of Regina’s namesake ship seized an estimated 9,000 kilograms of hashish (which is created from cannabis plants) over four major drug busts along a route French called the “hash highway.”
The drugs are typically being transported from Iran or Pakistan to the coast of Yemen in motor driven boats called dhows. Using HMCS Regina’s on-board helicopter, crew members searched for dhows that raised concern through signs like flying a suspicious flag or not flying a flag at all, or spotting a ship that looked like it could be the right size. Once a suspect dhow was identified, French said members boarded the boat and searched it for illegal drugs.
With large busts like the four conducted, all of the approximately 230 crew members help haul the many nylon bags of hash onto the flight deck. French is sure these moments of teamwork will stick with the members.
“Having the successful drug busts will definitely probably have some memories for the crew. You know, it was a one-ship mission (with) all parts of the ship contributing to it and to seize those drugs,” he said.
“They feel like they’re a part of the ship’s company and the ship’s crew that actually contributed to that in a tangible way, to counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East.”
HMCS Regina set sail from its home base in Esquimalt, B.C., in early February and will return later this month. In the other five months of its deployment, the crew took part in Operation PROJECTION, a naval mission in the Asia Pacific aimed at strengthening Canada’s relationship with countries in that region.
As part of this, the crew also had the chance to spend three days in Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay, where they worked on outreach projects with the local people.
“I’ve been very pleased with the last seven months, both in terms of the capability that we brought with us … (and) the experiences that we’ve had, the cultures that we’ve been able to intermingle with, the exercises we participated in, the operations that we contributed to. It’s all been fantastic,” said French.