Saturday, January 14, 2012

Another Threat to Freight Vessels Neutralised as Pirates Captured in NATO Attack

Thirteen an Unlucky Number as Hijackers Seized
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – GULF OF ADEN – Friday the 13th proved the undoing for thirteen would be pirates as the NATO counter piracy task force Operation Ocean Shield, which battles against the threat to freight and passenger vessels in the region, had another success after the American missile destroyer USS Carney picked up the trail of a suspected pirate vessel a day earlier. Yesterday the Royal Navy support vessel RFA Fort Victoria intercepted the small craft, believed to be a Dhow acting as a mother ship, and launched its helicopter which fired warning shots.

The pirates tried to flee despite the Lynx Mark 8 helicopter ringing her with flares and snipers aboard firing warning shots around her. This prompted the Captain of the Fort Victoria to launch the Navy’s fast attack boats which successfully attacked, boarding the vessel as the Marines approached, the pirates surrendered, throwing up their hands and gathering in the bow of the ship. Unusually for such an attack the miscreants appear to have had no time to dispose of their weapons, several of which were discovered aboard including RPG launchers and automatic rifles.

The discovery of arms will presumably supply the prima facie evidence which the arresting forces have often hitherto required before proceeding to prosecution. The next few weeks will provide an interesting insight as to whether the oft expressed promises that a new political will exists to put these cases before the Courts, particularly in the light of a statement yesterday that the six men seized by the Spanish warship Patino on the 12th January are to held whilst prosecution in Spain is reviewed.

Two of those suspected pirates are still receiving medical treatment and this will need to continue after they reach land. All the captured men required treatment upon their arrest but none are said to be in serious danger although there is still no sign of the man reported to be missing in the sea according to his cohorts.

The RFA Fort Victoria was despatched on her recent successful mission after recently being tasked to intercept the tanker MT Liquid Velvet, taken by pirates over a year ago and now in use as a mother ship. On the 11th January the Greek owned vessel was sighted 90 miles from the Somali coast and the navy ship intercepted and repeatedly circled her again sending in a helicopter until she turned for home and was witnessed returning to her usual anchorage. At the time Captain Gerry Northwood, Royal Navy, Commander of the UK's Counter-Piracy Task Force, said:

"Once the pirates were stopped there was never a chance that they were going to achieve anything as we could take down any efforts they made. This was a potential mother ship in terms of it having enough pirate paraphernalia on board to launch attacks on other ships in the area. We have been putting the pirates under a lot of pressure by taking down their dhow action groups so they are starting to get desperate.”