Canadian warships depart Vancouver Island for Central American drug operation
HMCS Whitehorse, one of two maritime coastal defence vessels that deployed from CFB Esquimalt on Monday, Feb 10, 2020. (File photo)
VICTORIA -- Two warships from Canada's Pacific fleet are en route to the waters off western Central America, part of a long-standing multinational operation to disrupt drug trafficking and bolster security in the region.
The departure of HMCS Whitehorse and HMCS Nanaimo from Esquimalt, B.C. on Monday marks the beginning of the longest deployment of maritime coastal defence vessels from Canada's West Coast for Operation Caribbe.
The operation is part of the wider U.S.-led Operation Martillo, a co-ordinated effort by Western Hemisphere and European militaries and law enforcement agencies to combat international drug trafficking and organized crime in the eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
“The Royal Canadian Navy’s contribution to Operation Caribbe is one of which we are incredibly proud," said Rear-Admiral Craig Baines, maritime component commander, in a statement Monday.
"Together with Canada’s allies we have been able to disrupt the flow of illicit drugs, interrupt funding sources for organized crime and maintain lawful access to the sea."
Approximately 80 service members are aboard the two Esquimalt-based vessels.
The three-month deployment marks the 14th year that Canadian Armed Forces have been a part of Operation Caribbe. Past deployments to the mission have averaged only two months.
"By deploying our maritime coastal defence vessels further and for a longer duration than we have before, we are able to demonstrate our ships’ and crews’ capabilities in a new way," said Maritime Forces Pacific commander Rear-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie.
Since 2006, Canadian forces have been credited with supporting the seizure and disruption of more than 102 tonnes of cocaine and nearly seven tonnes of marijuana, according to the Department of National Defence.
Since 2010, a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Canada has allowed U.S. Coast Guard personnel to operate aboard Canadian warships during the deployment.
The Whitehorse and Nanaimo are due back in Esquimalt in May.