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The Beluga Fortune sent out a ‘May Day’ to say that she was coming under attack, and that her crew were locking themselves in a safe room or ‘citadel’ to try and prevent the pirates from taking them hostage.
HMS Montrose, a Type 23 frigate that is part of NATO’s counter-piracy mission, codenamed Operation OCEAN SHIELD, was the closest warship, and so raced to the scene to help the terrified crew.
The pirates, on hearing that HMS Montrose was on her way, abandoned the ship, but not before setting fire to part of the superstructure.
As the Beluga Fortune’s crew had barricaded themselves in, they were unaware if the pirates were still on board or not, and so were very relieved when a team of Royal Marines from HMS Montrose boarded the vessel in the afternoon and released them from the safe room. None of the crew were injured.
HMS Montrose’s Commanding Officer, Commander Jonathan Lett, said:
Today has shown that the adoption of anti-piracy measures by the crews of merchant vessels, combined with a rapid and offensive response by NATO, can result in pirate attacks being thwarted off the Horn of Africa.
Commodore Christian Rune, Royal Danish Navy, who is the commander of NATO’s counter-piracy task force, said:
I am delighted to see more and more merchant ships being able to use safe rooms effectively to defeat pirate attacks. The excellent preparation and implementation of anti-piracy best management practices by MV Beluga Fortune’s crew resulted in them being able to stay safe until the NATO warship arrived.
The Indian Ocean is vast and it cannot be guaranteed that a warship will be close by.
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 Programme shipping under Operation ALLIED PROVIDER and protecting merchant traffic in the Gulf of Aden under Operation ALLIED PROTECTOR.
Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 is a multinational naval group that provides the NATO alliance with the ability to quickly respond to crisis situations anywhere in the world.