USCG Cutter Makes First Drug Seizure of 2023 in Gulf of Oman

drug seizure Gulf of Oman
Cutter Emlen Tunnell made the first seizure of 2023 (US Coast Guard photo)

Published Feb 1, 2023 6:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

A U.S. Coast Guard vessel seized illegal drugs worth a total estimated U.S. street value of $33 million from a fishing vessel transiting international waters in the Gulf of Oman, on January 30. The seizure came as the vessel, a Sentinel-class cutter the USCGC Emlen Tunnell marked its first anniversary on station as part of six cutters assigned to the Combined Task Force in the Arabian Gulf.

According to a report from the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), the Emlen Tunnell was patrolling regional waters in support of CTF 150 when it came upon the vessel. During an inspection, the Coast Guard crew seized 4,000 kilograms of hashish and 512 kilograms of methamphetamine. According to CMF, this was the first drug seizure in 2023 and part of their ongoing mission. CTF 150 is one of four task forces organized under CMF.

“This is just the beginning of our work in delivering maritime security operations in the region to stop illicit activities and drug smuggling,” said UK Royal Navy Capt. James Byron, the CTF 150 commander. “This comes as a result of a valued partnership between CTF 150 and all partner nations in Combined Maritime Forces.”

In 2022, under the leadership of Royal Saudi Navy Rear Adm. Abdullah Al-Mutairi, CTF 150 ships logged more than 10,000 hours on regional patrols and intercepted six shipments of illegal drugs that included opium, heroin, hashish, and amphetamines. The combined estimated value of the seized drugs totaled more than $250 million. Leadership of the force rotates at six-month intervals, with Byron assuming command of the multinational task force on January 18.

Since 2021, CMF has interdicted $1 billion worth of illicit narcotics during maritime patrols. CMF is the largest international naval partnership in the world consisting of 38 member nations and partners.

The Coast Guard called the Sentinel-class cutters a game-changer at a time when the demand for U.S. Coast Guard services has never been higher.

The Emlen Tunnell arrived in the region early in 2022 after having been delivered on July 1, 2021, and commissioned in Philadelphia on October 15, 2021. She was the fourth of six newly built cutters being assigned to the mission and the 45th vessel overall in the class. She arrived in the region with her sister ship USCGC Glen Harris and is homeported in Manama, Bahrain, as part of U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia.

Last year, the Glen Harris was involved in four reported seizures while on patrol in the region. She captured nearly $100 million in illegal narcotics.