HMCS Shawinigan home after record-breaking counter-narcotics effort
By Joanie Veitch,
There was much to celebrate at HMC Dockyard As HMCS Shawinigan returned to Halifax on August 9 — a successful and historic counter-narcotics operation as part of Operation CARIBBE, along the ship arriving to handmade signs and hugs from family and friends at one of the first in-person reunions since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Everyone knows in the military that we’re only who we are because of the strength behind us and that’s our families, so I think having everybody here to welcome us home like this gives you that tingle up your spine,” said Cdr Bill Sanson, Commanding Officer of HMCS Shawinigan.
Since leaving its homeport on June 2, Shawinigan has been on a ten-week deployment in the Caribbean Sea with Operation CARIBBE, Canada’s contribution to a US-led multi-national counter-narcotics operation under Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATFS).
Working with the Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Southeast, the crew of Shawinigan intercepted nearly 2,800 kg of cocaine, worth an estimated $70 million USD, in four interdictions in the Caribbean Sea.
The first two raids took place between July 12 and 13, and resulted in the seizure of almost 1,350 kg of cocaine. Another 675 kg of cocaine was seized on July 18 after crewmembers boarded a small vessel, with an additional 774 kg intercepted in another raid on July 21.
“As you can imagine, finding a small boat in the Caribbean that does not want to be found is like looking for a needle in a haystack,” said Cdr Sanson, speaking at a news conference held by US and Canadian officials on August 5 at Port Everglades in Florida, where the drugs were off-loaded.
“Four seizures in ten days is extraordinary, as is the effort put forth by everyone on this team. But none of this surprises me, knowing what I know about all these sailors,” he added. “I’m proud of them, and you should be proud of what they’ve done. Their unwavering professionalism alongside our partners made this happen.”
The effort represents the largest illicit drug offload in Coast Guard history, said VAdm Steven Poulin, Atlantic area commander with the US Coast Guard.
“It’s historic. It’s the result of the combined efforts of our interagency partners and a dedicated international coalition,” he said. “I want to congratulate and thank Canada for their efforts. The Canadian government and the Canadian defence force brings an incredible capability in defeating transnational organized crime. I’m grateful to HMCS Shawinigan, that they could be here as well to showcase Canada’s commitment.”
As part of Operation CARIBBE, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) support multinational efforts to address drug trafficking in the Caribbean and off the Pacific coast of Central America by providing naval and air capabilities to detect and monitor suspect activities.
The results of this most recent counter-narcotics operation demonstrates the strength that comes from working together, said MGen Paul Ormsby, Canadian Defence Attaché in Washington.
“We know that no nation can do it alone and we know that we are stronger together,” he said.
After a successful completion of their mission, Cdr Sanson said the ship’s company was looking forward to a well-earned rest at home.
“Everyone is really happy to be reunited with their families… and get back to normal a little bit. They really deserve it.”