Hundreds of kilos of heroin worth up to £40m (€43.4m) have been found hidden under towels and bathrobes in a shipping container.
It is one of the largest drugs seizures in the UK and several suspects have been arrested, police said.
Intelligence led to UK, Dutch and Belgian police tracking a container suspected of carrying a large drugs shipment en route to Antwerp, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The container is believed to have begun its sea voyage in Oman, stopping in various locations before the ship docked in Felixstowe, Suffolk, on August 1, a spokesman said.
The next day officers from Border Force and the NCA removed a container in which around 398kg of heroin was concealed within a cover load of towels and bathrobes.
The heroin was removed and the container returned to the vessel, which carried on to the port of Antwerp.
On arrival, the container was collected by lorry and taken to Rotterdam – all the time under police surveillance. On Monday, as suspects took steps to unload the contents, Dutch police made two arrests.
At the same time the NCA arrested a man from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, who is still being questioned.
The drugs would be worth at least £9m (€10m) to organised criminals selling the whole consignment at wholesale, and at least £40m (€43.4m) at street level in the UK and other European countries, the NCA said.
Regional operations manager Colin Williams said: “The seizure of such a large quantity of heroin is the result of a targeted, intelligence-led investigation, carried out by the NCA with international and UK partners.
“It is almost certain that some of these drugs would have been sold in the UK, fuelling violence and exploitation including what we see in county lines offending nationwide.
“The heroin trade also feeds addictions that put users’ lives at risk, while giving rise to crimes such as theft which make people feel unsafe in their communities.
“The NCA works in the UK and with partners around the world to target the crime groups posing the greatest threat to the UK.”
Mark Kennedy, Border Force deputy director, said: “Border Force officers operate on the front line, working every day to keep dangerous class A drugs like this off the UK’s streets.
“Substantial seizures like this help to keep communities safe and hit the organised crime groups involved in the international drugs trade hard.”
- Press Association