Thirteen Somali pirates were captured on a dhow in the Indian Ocean on Friday by a combination of Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel.
The capture took place as dawn broke on Friday 13 January 2012 and involved RFA Fort Victoria joining USS Carney to ascertain the business of the dhow, which had been identified as a vessel being operated by pirates in the shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean.
In a combined show of force, both RFA Fort Victoria and USS Carney manoeuvred towards the dhow with the intention of encouraging her to comply with the counter-piracy forces. This should have been intimidating, given the size of the two military vessels, but the pirates were determined to carry on with their activities. RFA Fort Victoria was tasked to take positive action to disrupt the progress of the vessel.
RFA Fort Victoria deployed her Royal Navy Lynx Mk8 helicopter with Royal Marines maritime snipers on board who issued various clear warnings to the suspects to stop.
Despite these measures, the dhow failed to comply with repeated instructions to stop and verify her intentions. Immediately afterwards, Royal Marines in speedboats approached the vessel and successfully boarded it. The pirates surrendered as the Marines took control of the dhow.
13 Somali pirates were found to be on board together with a selection of weapons.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:
This operation off the coast of Somalia is a clear demonstration of Britain’s ability to tackle piracy that threatens our interests. The Royal Navy and Royal Marines are playing a crucial role in securing and protecting international sea lanes that are vital to global trade. The Royal Navy and Royal Marines can be proud of this successful interception.
Captain Gerry Northwood, commander of the counter-piracy operation on RFA Fort Victoria, said:
This was a well-executed operation by NATO forces to locate a known Somali pirate group that was operating in international shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean. An effective boarding was safely executed by the Royal Marines boarding team based on RFA Fort Victoria and this has safely neutralised the effect of the pirate mother ship.
This firm and positive action will also send a clear message to other Somali pirates that we will not tolerate their attacks on international shipping.
Captain Shaun Jones, Commanding Officer of RFA Fort Victoria, said:
I am extremely proud of the way in which my crew and helicopter in tandem with embarked Royal Marines were able to successfully capture these Somali pirates. To manoeuvre such a large ship at speed in close vicinity of a nimble dhow takes extreme concentration and skill; my team were never found wanting. The 13 Somalis certainly found Friday 13th unlucky for them!
Captain James Sladden, Royal Marines, Officer in Charge of the embarked Fleet Standby Rifle Squadron, said:
The moment of going on board the dhow was tense as we knew there were pirates on board who had refused to stop despite our warning shots. Through our weapon sights we could see there were about 13 pirates, mostly gathered in the area of the bridge. We quickly boarded and secured the vessel before mustering the pirates on the bow.
This incident follows RFA Fort Victoria’s success last week in blocking an attempt by pirates to sail the hijacked tanker Liquid Velvet from the Somali coast into the Gulf of Aden where they would have used it as a mother ship to launch attacks on passing shipping. See Related News to read more on this.