Maritime Security

NATO’s Operation Shield Naval Forces swooped into action capturing several Somali pirate motherships and disrupting others at a time when their captured vessels are low in numbers

Last week saw a particularly good week for the multi national Naval Task Forces operating throughout the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean regions conducting NATO’s Operation Shield.

UK’s RFA Fort Victoria prevented MT Liquid Velvet a captured merchant vessel at the hands of Somali pirates being used as a mothership from progressing towards the Arabian Gulf to conduct piracy operations.

MT Liquid Velvet has a crew of 23 on board and was reportedly being used as a mothership earlier in the week by EU NAVFOR.  The interdiction took place after Fort Victoria shadowed the mothership during the night and sent their Lynx helicopter to overfly the mothership to demonstrate they meant business.

This act gave the pirates second thoughts and they turned the ship around and headed back towards the Somali coastline being shadowed by Fort Victoria.

The Danish Navy warship Absalon rescued a captured Iranian fishing dhow Tahari with 14 crewmembers on board.  25 pirates were captured during the boarding operation.  The captured dhow had been held for two months and crew were glad to be set free without injury.

American warship USS Kidd seized a further Iranian fishing dhow capturing 15 Somali pirates and setting free the crew of 13 Iranian fishermen.

On Thursday Spanish Naval Tanker SPS Patino suffered an attack by Somali pirates in a case of mistaken identity, which proved to be disastrous for the pirates.

SPS Patino was conducting World Food Programme escort duties off the coast of Somalia when a lone pirate skiff approached at speed and opened fire believing the supply ship was a merchant vessel.

The navy crew on watch returned fire at the skiff and launched their helicopter to prevent the skiff evading capture.

The six pirates onboard the fleeing skiff jettisoned their weapons and pirate signature equipment overboard in an attempt to plead their innocence when captured, as they knew the game was up and surrendered.

RFA Fort Victoria had a busy week as shortly after they prevented MT Liquid Velvet from conducting mothership operations when they were called into action once more against a suspicious fishing dhow.

Royal Marine snipers on board a Navy Lynx helicopter fired warning shots towards the dhow, which failed to stop.  Marines in rigid inflatable boats moved towards the dhow under cover of the airborne snipers to conduct a boarding and search of the dhow.

The Marines faced no resistance from the dhow and boarded it to find 13 Somali pirates on board with a cache of weapons and ammunition.

A successful week for the Navy however, there is no end in sight as the pirate menace simply grows in different directions as witnessed last year with land based kidnappings of tourists from Kenya’s coastal areas.

British hostage Judith Tebbutt is still held captive inside Somalia since September last year.