HMS Cornwall rescues hostages from pirates

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Five hostages and their fishing vessel have been freed from Somali pirates by a naval boarding party from HMS Cornwall.

The successful operation to free the fishermen was staged when their dhow, which was being used by the pirates, was spotted acting suspiciously by a South Korean merchant vessel, the Yong Jin, which made a call to the British warship for help.

The frigate arrived at the scene in the Indian Ocean and disrupted the pirates’ activities. Her highly trained boarding team, supported overhead by her Lynx helicopter, searched and secured the dhow which the pirates had been using as a ‘mother ship’ from which to mount other attacks in smaller craft known as skiffs.

A thorough search uncovered the vessel’s original Yemeni crew who had been held hostage for three months. HMS Cornwall’s action means they now have their dhow back and are free to return to their families in the Yemen.

The boarding crew also found and destroyed a range of equipment believed to have been used by the pirates that included weapons such as rocket propelled grenades, three skiffs with powerful outboard motors, and two boarding ladders. HMS Cornwall’s Commanding Officer, Commander David Wilkinson, said:

Our presence in the area has had a hugely significant effect on the lives of five Yemeni fishermen who have been freed from over three months of pirate captivity and can now return to their families.

In addition, we have restored a merchant vessel to legitimate use on the high seas and my highly trained team has conducted a very slick boarding operation which has ensured that this pirate vessel is no longer able to operate.

This demonstrates the reassurance and security offered by the presence in these waters of HMS Cornwall and other warships from Combined Maritime Forces.

HMS Cornwall's Lynx helicopter hovers above the hijacked Yemeni dhow and pirate skiffs
HMS Cornwall's Lynx helicopter hovers above the hijacked Yemeni dhow and pirate skiffs [Picture: LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

HMS Cornwall is currently the command platform for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, the counter-piracy mission of the Combined Maritime Forces.

In accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and in co-operation with non-member forces, CTF 151’s mission is to disrupt piracy and armed robbery at sea and to engage with regional and other partners to build capacity and improve relevant capabilities in order to protect global maritime commerce and secure freedom of navigation.

Combined Maritime Forces is a multinational naval partnership which exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across 2.5 million square miles (6.5 million square kilometres) of international waters in the Middle East, which encompass some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.