A combined multi-agency maritime search and rescue operation by vessels from HM Customs, RGP and the Spanish Salvamento Maritimo was carried out in the early hours of this morning following a report of a vessel in distress in the north of the Bay of Gibraltar.
During the search a RHIB with three crewmen on board and laden with bales of suspected Cannabis Resin was sighted about 2 nautical miles off the Refinery refuelling buoy. The vessel, of at least 12m in length and fitted with 3 high powered outboard engines, had been swamped and was drifting in the rough weather conditions.
Despite various attempts neither the HM Customs or RGP vessels were able to come alongside the stricken vessel due to the adverse sea state. The larger Salvamento Maritimo vessel “Denebola” subsequently managed to go alongside the RHIB and recover the three occupants, who were conveyed to the port of Algeciras to receive medical attention. The partially sunk RHIB and its cargo continued to drift towards Gibraltar, eventually ending up in the area of Camp Bay.
Land based Police units were deployed to the area to monitor the vessel and its cargo. The vessel subsequently capsized spilling its cargo of bales into the sea. As these begun to wash ashore over an extensive area of the shore line additional resources including, the entirety of the current intake of RGP and GDP Police recruits and elements of HM Customs, had to be deployed to the area to assist in the cordoning off of the area and the recovery of the bales.
At total of 84 bales of suspected Cannabis Resin with an approximate weight of just under 3 tons and an estimated street value in excess of £14 million pounds have been recovered. A police investigation is in process.