First Pirate Attack of the Year Leads to a Warning for Cruisers

If there was any doubt that the Gulf of Aden was clear of pirates and it was again safe for sailing boats, this week’s report from the EU Naval Force operating in the region should dispel any thought of sailing there for even the most foolhardy cruising sailor.

On Saturday, January 18 2014, the French EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia Operation Atalanta flagship FS Siroco in cooperation with Japanese assets released the crew of a dhow that was suspected to have been used as pirate mother-ship. The flagship apprehended five suspected pirates believed to be responsible for an attack on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden a day earlier.

The oil tanker issued a distress call to the UK Maritime Trade Operation (UKMTO) on the evening of Friday, January 17, reporting to be under attack. According to the reports, the attack was repelled by a private armed security team embarked on board the oil tanker. The skiff then headed to a dhow which lingered nearby.

The EU Naval Force, in cooperation with other Counter Piracy Forces, reacted quickly to this incident. A Japanese Maritime Patrol Aircraft and a helicopter from the Japanese vessel JS Samidare initially located the dhow. The EU NAVFOR flagship FS Siroco was then able to close distance to the dhow and launch their helicopter and boarding team.

Upon nearing the dhow, the helicopter crew and boarding team observed that people on board the dhow were throwing equipment over board, deepening the suspicion that the dhow was indeed the reported pirate mother-ship.

Once the Siroco’s team boarded the dhow, five Somali suspect pirates surrendered and were separated from the dhow’s crew and transferred to FS Siroco for further investigation. As always, the EU Naval Force seeks, if possible, a legal finish with the prosecution of the suspected pirates.

The master’s initial statement supported the suspicion that his dhow has been pirated and his crew taken hostage several days ago off the coast of Somalia. He also stated that the suspect pirates were responsible for the attack on the oil tanker the day before.

The EU NAVFOR Force Commander, Rear Admiral Hervé Bléjean, said: ‘Thanks to an exceptionally effective international cooperation, we showed once more that there will be no safe haven for piracy in the area as long as Counter Piracy Forces remain fully dedicated to their task. I also congratulate FS Siroco with this success.’

EU Naval Force deters, prevents and represses acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia. EU Naval Force ships protect World Food Programme vessels delivering aid to Somalia and AMISOM shipping. EU Naval Force ships also contribute to the monitoring of fishing activity off the Somali Coast.

They are not there to protect sailors, and ISAF has frequently issued warnings to cruising sailors not to stray into the area.

More about the activities of EU NAVFOR ATALANTA:
EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia – Operation Atalanta is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to tackle symptoms and root causes of piracy off the coast of Somalia and the EU Strategic Framework for the Horn of Africa adopted in November 2011.

EU NAVFOR conducts anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and the Indian Ocean and is responsible for the protection of World Food Programme (WFP) shipping carrying humanitarian aid to the people of Somalia and Horn of Africa as well as the logistic shippings supporting the African Union troops conducting Peace Support Operations in Somalia (AMISOM). Additionally, Operation Atalanta contributes to the monitoring of fishing activity off the coast of Somalia.

For more information, please visit the website www.eunavfor.eu.

Courtesy of EUNAVFOR ATALANTA/Sail-World Cruising

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