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South Pacific, Vanuatu: Yacht drug haul spells difficulties for cruising sailors

By Sail-World.com — last modified Aug 31, 2013 10:11 AM
The sad thing for sailors about the recent $370 million worth of cocaine which has been intercepted on a yacht in Vanuatu, is that it is bound to make the way more difficult for long range cruising sailors as they make their way from country to country. Report from Sail-World.com.

Published: 2013-08-30 23:00:00
Countries: Australia , Vanuatu

South Pacific, Vanuatu: Yacht drug haul spells difficulties for cruising sailors

Raj on a mooring in Vanuatu - like any other typical cruising boat: © Sail-World.com

The drug traffickers thought they had found the perfect way to slip their cargo - aboard one of the fleet of little-noticed sailing boats that move like migrating birds around the world.


The multi-agency law enforcement operation across the South Pacific has resulted in the seizure of approximately 750 kilograms of cocaine in Vanuatu. This is likely to make checks more stringent on the hundreds of innocent cruising boats in the Pacific.


Since 2010, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have collaborated with South Pacific nations to investigate organised crime syndicates using yachts and similar vessels travelling through the region with cocaine shipments bound for Australia.

Project Cringle was established as a long-term AFP, ACBPS and DEA project targeting criminal organisations using the South Pacific as a transit point and staging area for their activities.

In July 2013, the AFP, ACBPS and the DEA commenced Operation Basco as a result of intelligence gathered in Project Cringle. This joint investigation targeted a yacht known as the Raj docked in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

The assistance of the Vanuatu Police Force was sought to seize and search the 'Raj'. Concealment experts from ACBPS and agents from the AFP and DEA travelled to Vanuatu on Monday to assist in the extensive examination.

Officers discovered an estimated 750 kilograms of cocaine hidden in the lower engine compartments and around the keel area of the hull.

It is estimated this consignment would be worth approximately $370 million, and has presented in excess of 750,000 individual deals from reaching Australian streets.

US Drug Enforcement Administration Senior Attache David Cali said this joint operation sent a strong message to organised crime groups seeking to operate in the South Pacific.

'This seizure is another fine example of the successes achieved when international law enforcement collaborates to rid our societies of the evils of drugs,' Attache Cali said.

'Organised crime syndicates should know that we are prepared, willing and able to combine our skills, resources and efforts to target them.'

The efforts of all agencies involved in Project Cringle, along with authorities in Tonga, the Cook Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia have resulted in almost two tonnes of cocaine destined for Australia being seized from five vessels since 2010.

Read more at www.sail-world.com

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Alan
Alan says:
Sep 07, 2013 04:47 AM

I don't believe this spells difficulties for cruisers....unless you happen to be carrying drugs !
The yacht pictured is not in a standard crusiers anchorage it has been moored on the far side of the harbour at the southern end of the commercial wharf since it was impounded by the Vanuatu Customs.
This boat had been on the watch lists of the AFP for some time...its a pity that they apprehended it before they had a chance to catch the perpetrators.
Vanuatu is a yacht friendly cruising destination. The officials are very helpful and friendly...even if they do charge for their services (except customs).

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