Royal Navy Type 22 frigate HMS Chatham, currently deployed as NATO's counter-piracy flagship, has destroyed two boats after intercepting a group of suspected pirates in the Somali Basin.
In a co-ordinated search with an EU Naval Force maritime patrol aircraft, operating out of the Seychelles, HMS Chatham’s Lynx helicopter spotted a larger vessel towing the two attack boats approximately 150 miles (240km) off the coast of Tanzania on Friday 14 May 2010.
After monitoring the vessel through the night, at dawn, in a well planned operation, the pirates were forced to surrender by the overwhelming force posed by HMS Chatham, her Lynx helicopter and fast boats containing the ship’s Royal Marines detachment.
The Royal Marines team boarded the larger craft and found ten Somalis and a large amount of fuel on board; the suspected pirates had been observed throwing items, including their weapons and other piracy-related equipment, into the sea.
The two smaller attack boats were fitted with powerful outboard engines and again contained a considerable amount of fuel. These were separated from the larger craft by the Royal Marines team and HMS Chatham and her Lynx helicopter used their combined firepower to destroy the smaller craft, ensuring that the suspected pirates could not continue with their mission.
Disarmed and without the means to commit an act of piracy, the ten Somalis were left with only enough fuel in the larger vessel to return to Somalia.
Commander Simon Huntington, the Commanding Officer of HMS Chatham, said:
I am extremely pleased that we have again successfully disrupted a suspected pirate attack group operating in the Somali Basin and prevented them from mounting attacks against merchant shipping. This clearly demonstrates NATO’s determination and commitment to continue the fight against piracy in the region.
NATO has contributed to the international counter-piracy effort off the Horn of Africa since December 2008. The mission has expanded from escorting UN and World Food Progamme shipping under Operation ALLIED PROVIDER to protecting merchant traffic in the Gulf of Aden under Operation ALLIED PROTECTOR.
In addition to these activities, and as part of the latest mission, Operation OCEAN SHIELD, NATO is working with other international bodies to help develop capacity of countries in the region to tackle piracy on their own.
The NATO Task Force consists of five ships from Standing NATO Maritime Group 2. These are HMS Chatham (UK), USS Cole (US), TCG Gelibolu (Turkey), HS Limnos (Greece) and ITS Scirocco (Italy).
At sea, NATO is working closely with other partners including the EU Maritime Force and the Combined Maritime Force, as well as other navies including China, Japan, India and Russia.