The Navy said U.S. Coast Guard personnel aboard USS Tempest (PC 2) and USS Typhoon (PC 5) discovered the shipment of drugs hidden in a stateless fishing vessel on Monday (December 27).
The fishing vessel is believed to have come from Itan as all nine crew members aboard identified themselves as Iranian nationals, Cmdr. TImothy Hawkins, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet, confirmed in a statement obtained by NBC News, though not elaborating on who manufactured the drugs or where they were intending to travel to.
The task force has now confiscated more than $193 million worth of illegal drugs during operations at sea in 2021, which has exceeded the total for the past four years combined, NBC News reports.
The U.N. Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment released last year reported heroin is typically trafficked to the Middle East and parts of Europe by land from Iran and Afghanistan through the Balkans, Southern Caucasus mountains or Saudi Arabia.
Smugglers in Iran have focused on transporting the drug through sea routes to South Asia, with numerous arrests involving Iranian and Pakistani sailors having been made near Sri Lanka, the report confirmed.
Iran’s eastern border with Afghanistan — which stretches 1,195 miles — is considered the world’s largest producer of opium, making it a major location for global illegal drug smuggling.