dinsdag 14 augustus 2012

NATO Warship HNLMS Rotterdam frees hijacked dhow

In the early morning of the 13th of August, the boarding team of HNLMS Rotterdam disrupted a suspected pirate group before they could launch an attack on a merchant ship. The decisive action was the result of a daylong operation of ships and patrol aircraft from NATO and EUNAVFOR.

The search for the suspected pirates started five days ago, when Bossaaso port authorities reported a possible hijacking of a dhow. Two days later, the EU Naval Force unit Lafayette located the dhow. A visit showed that the suspected pirates had transferred to another vessel, the Bourhan Nour. That dhow was located another day later by another EU Naval Force unit, FGS Sachsen.

Landing vessel of HNLMS Rotterdam between Somali coast
and hijacked dhow
It became clear the suspected pirates were bound for Somalia, apparently ready to give up their plans. Commodore Ben Bekkering, Commander of NATO’s counter piracy mission, Operation Ocean Shield explains what action was taken; “To us it seemed highly unlikely that the pirates would want to return to Bossaaso. The authorities there make no secret of their intentions to eradicate piracy. However, to the east of Bossaaso two hijacked ships are still held by the pirates, who seem to be present in the nearby villages as well. We expected the pirates to go there, possibly asking help from their colleagues. We therefore decided to station Rotterdam off the coast, deploying her landing craft in a number of locations, effectively blocking any retreat from or support of the dhow. As expected, the dhow entered the trap. It was then up to Rotterdam.”

Hijacked dhow and EU-flagship FGS Sachsen
“For the pirates it must have been a strange site. Not just Rotterdam and FGS Sachsen from the EU Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR) following closely, but also a helicopter and few landing craft ahead making the coast almost impossible to approach,” explains Captain Huub Hulsker, Commanding Officer of HNLMS Rotterdam. “There was not really anywhere for them to go. Obviously, the main thought is always for the safety of my crew and that of the crew of the dhow. But the situation was clear and some strict orders and two warning shots later, the suspected pirates surrendered. The boarding team was on board and in control of the vessel within the next 20 minutes. A grateful dhow crew, an impressive first action of my whole team early in my deployment and six suspected pirates detained on board, awaiting further decisions - this is a result that counts.”

Dutch marines arrest suspected pirates

NATO is working alongside EUNAVFOR, Combined Maritime Forces and individual nations to fight piracy. By joining forces, counter piracy efforts are more effective and can achieve more than any one ship, navy,  organisation or country working alone.

(NATO Maritime Command Northwood, 14 August 2012)

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