The Royal Navy ship HMS Mersey has played a key part in an operation to seize a vessel suspected of smuggling cocaine off Nicaragua.

The Royal Navy ship HMS Mersey, operating in the North Atlantic region as part of her commitment to the security of the UK’s overseas territories, worked with the Canadian Navy and US Coastguard in the operation to intercept a small yacht.

The Honduras-bound yacht was stopped and searched by a US Coast Guard team in the Canadian ship HMCS Summerside and 304kg of drugs were discovered onboard.

HMS Mersey sent a small team on her fast boat – a Pacific 22 rigid inflatable – to take charge of three suspects and bring them back to the ship.

As darkness fell the team then returned to collect 16 bales of cocaine, which have a wholesale value of approximately £12,000,000. The drugs were then passed on to American law enforcement officials aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Thetis.

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Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: ‘This underlines the strength and global reach of our Royal Navy. Backed by a rising defence budget, the Navy plays a key role in tackling the global drugs trade, while delivering reassurance to Britain’s overseas territories.’

Mersey, a Portsmouth-based River Class patrol ship left the UK in January for a seven-month deployment of the North Atlantic.

HMS Mersey’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Richard Hewitt said: ‘I am delighted with HMS Mersey’s contribution to this substantial drugs bust, this was an excellent team effort from both my crew and the three nations involved.’