Water police and Australian Border Force detecting fishy behaviour at Victorian Ports

Victoria Police and the Australian Border Force (ABF) are conducting highly visible operations to deter the illegal importation of drugs and goods via ocean freight into Victorian ports.

A multiagency operation saw officers from the ABF with drug detection dogs alongside Water Police and divers from Search and Rescue, search a 170m shipping vessel when it docked at Maribyrnong last week (3 September).

The vessel, which arrived in Melbourne from Panama, was searched along its hull by specialised police divers while ABF officers and drug detection dogs searched on board.

In an Australian first, the Water Police also utilised the latest model state-of-the-art Remote Operated Vessel to support the search.

The vessel is equipped with dynamic remote-controlled camera systems and can search at depths of 300m, providing support for divers undertaking dangerous work in low visibility conditions.

Water Police Inspector Greg Barras said the multiagency approach was key in order to ensure vessels coming into Victoria weren’t harbouring anything sinister.

“We’re taking a proactive approach to try and assess any vessels that pose a risk,” Insp Barras said.

“The Port of Melbourne is the busiest in the Southern Hemisphere, so working together with ABF and maintaining that visible presence is vital especially in the current climate.

“Our message is clear, if you are attempting to import drugs or illegal goods via ships into Victoria we will detect them.

“Anything we can do to deter this activity and prevent drugs from reaching the hands of vulnerable Victorians, we will do.”

ABF Superintendent Tori Rosemond said the joint activity was one of many ways the two agencies continued to work together to combat illegal import activity, despite a decrease in commercial flight arrivals due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Criminal syndicates adapt to change – and so do we. Our message today is that we are well across attempts to illegally import contraband through the maritime domain, which this operation highlights,” Superintendent Rosemond said.