Page last updated at 05:53 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 06:53 UK

William's ship in new drugs chase

HMS Iron Duke"s sea boat looking for drugs (Copyright: MoD)
Prince William witnessed the firing but was not directly involved

Prince William has been involved in a second drugs operation while serving on HMS Iron Duke in the Caribbean, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

He was on board a Lynx helicopter as it chased a speedboat suspected of shipping cocaine from South America.

Shots fired from the Lynx disabled the boat, but no drugs were found. The crew were passed to Colombian authorities.

William, 26, who is on secondment to the Navy, was involved in a seizure of cocaine worth 40m earlier this month.

The prince, an Army officer in the Household Cavalry regiment, is spending five weeks on the frigate as part of his Navy placement aimed at preparing him for his future role as head of the armed forces.

William undertook a similar attachment with the RAF earlier this year.

Vessel tracked

During the latest incident, the speedboat tried to flee, so gunners on board the helicopter shot out its engine.

This forced the crew of three to jump into the sea, the MoD said. They were later pulled on to HMS Iron Duke.

No drugs were discovered on the boat, although traces were found on two of the three crew members.

The MoD said it was common practice for drug smugglers to dump their cargo to try to avoid prosecution.

HMS Iron Duke began to track the vessel eight days ago during a security patrol, about 110 miles (177km) off the coast near the Venezuela-Colombia border.

A boat suspected of drugs trafficking in the Caribbean on fire (Copyright: MoD)
The boat suspected of trafficking drugs was sunk

When the men on the boat failed to heed repeated warnings to stop, Royal Marines on the Lynx fired warning shots from their long-range rifles before disabling the boat with direct fire.

An MoD spokesman said Prince William had been on the Lynx ready for a training flight when it was redirected to intercept the suspect vessel.

"Prince William remained on board until the helicopter returned to Iron Duke," said the spokesman.

"He witnessed the firing but wasn't involved in it. He then returned to ship to resume his normal duties as officer of the watch."

The boat was later sunk and the crew were passed to the Colombian authorities.

Cdr Mark Newland, commanding officer of HMS Iron Duke, said the first 30-day patrol of the frigate's Caribbean deployment had been "an enormous success".

"My ship's company are elated at again disrupting the activities of the suspected drug runners," he said.


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