A joint operation between the NCA, Border Force and the Royal Navy saw the tugboat intercepted on Thursday

The Royal Navy seized cocaine from a tugboat in the North Sea on Thursday following a joint operation between themselves, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Border Force.

Acting on intelligence supplied by the NCA, the ocean-going tug MV Hamal was intercepted by HMS Somerset and Border Force cutter Valiant around 100 miles east of Scotland.

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The raid occurred after a close cooperation with the French Customs Service DNFRED and in coordination with the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre, plus the Maritime Analysis and Operational Centre – Narcotics, based in Lisbon.

The tugboat was boarded by officers before being accompanied into Aberdeen where a search was carried out by specialists.

Royal Navy intercept tugboat

Credit: National Crime Agency

Nine crew aged between 26 and 63 were detained for questioning by investigators from the NCA’s Border Policing Command and later charged with drug trafficking offences.

They remain in custody and will appear before Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Monday.

Tug intercepted by Royal Navy

Credit: National Crime Agency

The NCA’s border policing command John McGowan said: “This is a potentially significant seizure of illegal drugs, only made possible by the co-operation between ourselves, Border Force, the Royal Navy, French Customs and our other international partners

“The exact amount of cocaine on board is yet to be determined and the search is likely to continue for some time.

“The ongoing NCA investigation is being supported by Police Scotland.”