Combined Maritime Forces, NATO Ships Help to Thwart Pirate Attacks
American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, April 20, 2009 The British military support ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary Wave Knight, working in support of the Combined Maritime Forces, thwarted two April 18 pirate attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden, resulting in the release of 13 hostages and disrupting the activities of 14 Somali pirates.
"This is a clear demonstration of how cooperation between more than a dozen international naval forces can result in the successful disruption of piracy activity," said Royal Navy Commodore Tim Lowe, deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces. "In the last 72 hours alone, coordinated efforts of six different nations resulted in the release of 49 innocent merchant mariners who had been held hostage by armed pirates, as well as the interception of 46 suspected pirates."
Lowe cautioned that naval forces will not be the sole solution to piracy, but said coordinated international naval efforts would continue to disrupt criminal acts of piracy.
While working in conjunction with international naval forces deployed to the region, Wave Knight’s crew received a distress call at about 8 a.m. from Merchant Vessel Handy Tankers Magic, which was under attack by pirates.
The attack broke off before Wave Knight arrived, but the ship followed their skiff to a fishing dhow, a sailboat commonly used by natives along the African and Indian coasts. The dhow was later confirmed to be a pirate "mother ship." Via radio, Wave Knight ordered the dhow to stop and used a Royal Navy armed force protection team as well as the ship's own weapons team to provide cover. The pirate vessel complied.
Dutch warship HNLMS De Zeven Provincien, deployed as part of NATO's Standing Naval Maritime Group 1, arrived and its crew determined no pirates or hostages were aboard the vessel. Ultimately, 13 fishermen who had been held hostage by pirates since April 12 were freed and able to return home to Yemen.
Since the seven suspected pirates aboard the dhow were not captured in the act of piracy, they were released, but they were disarmed and their weapons were destroyed.
Two hours later, Wave Knight received a second distress call from Merchant Vessel Front Ardennes. Wave Knight arrived and successfully deterred the skiff, preventing the pirates from boarding the tanker. Following repeated warnings to move away, Wave Knight fired warning shots, which caused the pirates to break off their attack and flee the scene.
With the assistance of helicopters from the NATO task group ships HMCS Winnipeg and USS Halyburton, Wave Knight followed the pirate skiff for six hours, until relieved by the Winnipeg crew, who boarded the skiff.
Wave Knight provided fuel and landing facilities for the NATO warships' helicopters and was able to maneuver into a position to stop the suspected pirates, allowing Winnipeg's boarding team to disarm and then subsequently release the suspected pirates.
"RFA Wave Knight is a modern replenishment ship designed to be able to support a myriad of coalition maritime operations," said Royal Fleet Auxiliary Capt. I. N. Phillips, Wave Knight's commanding officer. "Our primary role is refueling and aviation operations, but we are fully capable of conducting anti-piracy operations in and around the Horn of Africa. We have been on station for over a year providing support to many nations, and we remain committed to helping ensure maritime security."
Twenty-three nations participate with Combined Maritime Forces to conduct maritime security operations throughout the region and help to set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment.
(From a Combined Maritime Forces news release.)