HMS Westminster delivers blow to Indian Ocean piracy

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

HMS Westminster has thwarted the activities of three pirate groups in a fortnight, destroying their boats and means of further action.

In each case the Portsmouth-based warship deployed her Merlin helicopter to send the pirate skiffs to the bottom of the Indian Ocean after pirates on board had tried - but failed - to hijack merchant shipping in the area.

When deployed to the incidents the Merlin helicopter’s crew invariably found the small craft crammed with weapons, extra fuel, ladders and more people than you would expect to find for any other purpose - hundreds of miles from land.

On seeing the Merlin, with Royal Marines Commando snipers in the back, not to mention a heavily armoured Type 23 frigate steaming towards them, the suspects began ditching their pirate paraphernalia over the sides of their boats into the depths of the ocean.

In the face of such overwhelming force, the suspects themselves immediately surrendered and Westminster’s boarding team of Royal Marines and Royal Navy personnel secured them while evidence was gathered for the authorities in Combined Task Force 151, the international naval group to which HMS Westminster is currently assigned.

With the boarding and inspection complete, the pirates’ vessels were destroyed - boats, fuel, engines, communications kit, weaponry - by the guns of the Merlin, or the guns of Westminster herself.

Lieutenant Commander Kay Burbidge, Senior Observer of 829 Naval Air Squadron who is currently embarked aboard Westminster with the ship’s Merlin flight, said:

They have nowhere to hide and, as the pictures show, we also have the hardware to really spoil their day!

With the Merlin’s superior endurance and sophisticated sensors we can cover large areas of ocean to search for pirates and smugglers.

Her ship is now nearly at the halfway point of her east of Suez patrol, having already sailed more than 18,000 miles (29,000km) keeping the sea lanes safe.

Last month she dealt another high-profile blow to criminal activities in the region when she snared £14m of drugs on a dhow.

Westminster’s triple counter-piracy success came in March, before the EU Naval Force struck at pirate bases in Somalia.

A helicopter from one of the nine warships assigned to Operation ATALANTA, the European Union anti-piracy mission which is currently commanded by the UK’s Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, struck at ‘supplies on the shoreline’, attacking from the air; no personnel went in on the ground: