A team of Royal New Zealand Navy divers has scoured the hulls of two ships berthed at the Port of Tauranga, following intelligence reports they may have been transporting narcotics to Europe from South America.
The divers and support personnel from HMNZS Matataua recently conducted the joint operation with the New Zealand Customs Service.
While no drugs were found on the hull or inside the two ships when they were searched, it was still a good result, said Customs Operations Manager, Nicholas Sparey.
“It sends a strong message to criminal syndicates that we are always vigilant and always looking,” said Mr Sparey.
The profits derived from drug smuggling are so immense that organised crime syndicates were always looking for novel ways to import product, he said.
“Our intelligence gathering methods are keeping up with this activity but it does require a continual focus.”
“We’re fortunate we can count on a range of government agencies that assist us in the detection and confiscation of narcotics. Highly skilled Navy personnel, for example, provide a vitally important role for us both on and under the water.”
The dive team’s Lieutenant Dom Wells said the Tauranga search was a task they were well equipped to handle.
“We’re trained to conduct a range of mine clearance operations, and in some instances mines and drug importation use similar hull delivery mechanisms,” he said.
“Both of them cause devastating harm so we’re pleased to be able to assist Customs in keeping New Zealanders safe.”