The NATO warships, HMS CHATHAM and USS COLE destroyed a group of 3 pirate vessels over the weekend in the Somali Basin. Two of the boats were destroyed and a third confiscated.
A Swedish Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), part of the EU NAVFOR and operating out of the Seychelles located 3 skiffs on Friday 23 April; one large whaler type and 2 smaller “attack” skiffs. HMS CHATHAM was quickly dispatched to the scene and after 5 hours spotted boats which were approximately 500 miles from the Somali coast. On the warship’s arrival, the 2 smaller skiffs approached, as if they intended to attack. However, once closer, they started manoeuvring at high speed in an attempt to evade HMS CHATHAM, before fleeing in different directions. The larger boat was pursued until it was brought to a stop and the pirates surrendered. The ship’s Royal Marines (RM) detachment boarded this craft to find 4 pirates on board and a large amount of fuel.
Whilst this was happening, one of the smaller skiffs, with a further 5 pirates on board, returned to the area and surrendered to the RM team. A search of these boats revealed that the pirates had disposed of their weapons and other equipment during the pursuit. As darkness fell the third skiff remained un-located.
The following day the pirates and the “attack” skiff were brought on board HMS CHATHAM and the whaler was destroyed by gunfire from the Ship’s 20mm guns. On Sunday 25 Apr, the MPA spotted the third skiff now dead in the water and USS Cole, which was in the area, quickly found and boarded the craft. This skiff was destroyed by the US warship and the 4 pirates transferred to HMS CHATHAM.
With the pirate gang well and truly out of action, the pirates were landed to the Somali coast with all 3 of their pirate vessels and equipment confiscated, destroyed or abandoned.
The Commanding Officer of HMS CHATHAM, Commander Simon Huntington said
“This has been a truly international effort in the fight against piracy in the region. Working closely together, HMS CHATHAM, USS COLE and the EU NAVFOR Swedish coastguard aircraft ‘Bluebird’ have successfully located and destroyed this pirate attack group. Once again NATO warships and our international partners have taken direct action which has prevented another pirate group from attacking merchant shipping in the area.”
At sea NATO is working closely with other partners including EU Naval Force, Combined Maritime Force as well as other navies, including China, Japan, India and Russia.