Italy's Guardia Civil dispatched three boats to chase down the drug smugglers, who were found with 77 packages of marijuana on board their boat in the Adriatic Sea

A high speed boat chase across the Adriatic Sea has resulted in the seizure of marijuana worth an estimated £250,000.

Drug smugglers tried to out run the authorities off the southern Italian coast, reaching speeds of 35-knots in their RIB.

The boat was initially spotted acting suspiciously by the crew of an Italian Civil Guard Air Service helicopter.

The aircraft was in the area as part of border security efforts – Operation Triton 2017 – which is coordinated by the European Union’s Border security and coastguard agency, Frontex.

It aims to intercept drug smugglers and people traffickers.

Marijuana in bales is hidden underneath a blue tarp on board a RIB

The seized marijuana

According to a media release issued by Italy’s Guardia Civil yesterday (11 June), the helicopter crew reported the sighting of the suspicious boat to the Intelligence Officer at the International Coordination Centre in Rome.

The aircraft remained in the area carrying out discreet surveillance, while three boats were launched by Italy’s Guardia de Finanza.

“They intercepted the boat by seizing the 1,413 kilos of marijuana transported packed in 77 packages, stopped the two people who sailed there and transferred it to the port of Bari,” said the media release.

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The boat was taken to the Adriatic Sea port city of Bari, which is the capital of southern Italy’s Puglia region.

The marijuana is estimated to have a street value of £250,000.

According to the Frontex website, Operation Triton has a monthly budget of €2.9 million.

The project is under the command of the Italian Ministry of Interior, in cooperation with Guardia di Finanza, as well as the Italian Coast Guard

It is funded by voluntary contributions from 15 European countries: Croatia, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Romania, Poland, Lithuania and Malta.

The operational area of Triton covers the territorial waters of Italy as well as parts of the search and rescue (SAR) zones of Italy and Malta.