HMCS Ottawa Keeps Close Eye on Illicit Trafficking

HMCS Ottawa Keeps Close Eye on Illicit Trafficking

As part of Operation CARIBBE – Canada’s recurring participation in the multinational campaign against illicit trafficking in the Western Hemisphere – HMCS Ottawa plays a supporting role in the fight against illicit trafficking in the Caribbean basin and the eastern Pacific Ocean. On 10 June 2013, HMCS Ottawa departed from her home port in Esquimalt, B.C., heading south with a crew of approximately 250 personnel.

Tasked with detecting and monitoring suspect activities at sea, HMCS Ottawa locates and tracks vessels of interest. She also assists U.S. Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) teams – composed of eight to ten U.S. Coast Guard personnel – in conducting boarding and law enforcement operations, by approaching and intercepting these boats.

 “Our sailors and aircrew are highly trained in the use of a wide range of equipment, including sonar, radar, electronic sensors and a sophisticated communications suite which enables us to participate fully in co-ordinating with our allies,” said HMCS Ottawa Commanding Officer, Commander Julian Barnard.

Recently, these skills have resulted in the successful disruption of narcotics at sea. On 26 June 2013, HMCS Ottawa assisted in the seizure of 440 kilograms of cocaine while on patrol in the Pacific Ocean.

Illicit trafficking of drugs, weapons, money and people is a major source of revenue for transnational crime groups.

 “For every seizure we make, and for seizures our allies make, we reduce the availability of illicit narcotics on Canadian streets. While our sailors and aircrew work diligently to accomplish this mission thousands of miles from home, the positive results are seen right in our own neighbourhoods in Canada,” said Cdr Barnard.

By promoting security and stability in the eastern Pacific Ocean, Canada is also demonstrating its engagement to strengthening the Caribbean and the Americas.

Since 2006, Canada has deployed ships, Sea King helicopters and Aurora aircraft to the eastern Pacific Ocean, as part of Op CARIBBE. In 2010, the operation was expanded to allow USCG LEDETs to operate onboard Canadian warships, providing a unique opportunity to work with our closest ally.

 “Canadian Warships do not have a law enforcement mandate,” explained Cdr Barnard. “Thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Canada and the United Sates, USCG LEDETs can embark on Royal Canadian Navy warships to fulfil this important role.”

This multinational effort is led by the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force South (JIATF-S) – a U.S. national task force that specializes in interagency and multinational operations to counter illicit trafficking. Under Operation MARTILLO, JIATF-S leads a joint and coalition effort aimed at preventing the unlawful use of the international waters in the Caribbean basin and the eastern Pacific Ocean.

A number of partner forces and allies operate under Op MARTILLO, including Canada, the U.S., France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdoms. Every year these partner nations intercept and seize millions of dollars of illicit drugs and play a major role in suppressing trafficking in international waters and airspace.

Press Release, August 12, 2013; Image: Canadian DoD