USNS Lewis and Clarke (T-AKE1) and USS Winston Churchill (DDG 81) assisted in the response to a suspected pirate attack on Chinese-flagged cargo ship M/V Tai An Kou, Nov. 20.
M/V Tai An Kou reported to the UK Maritime Trade Organization that it was under attack by pirates in the North Arabian Sea at approximately 12 p.m. (Bahrain), while located about 100 nautical miles off the Omani coast.
Lewis and Clark, received the distress call and, as the nearest vessel, proceeded to investigate. Upon arrival at the scene, the ship’s crew reported seeing pirates in a dhow and two skiffs firing upon Tai An Kou. The pirates then shot at the USNS Lewis and Clark which fired back in self-defense. No casualties were reported by the suspected pirates or Lewis and Clark crew.
Winston S. Churchill, currently assigned to Turkish-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, was directed to investigate the situation and provide further assistance if necessary by the task force’s commander, Rear Adm. Sinan Ertugrul.
“I ordered the USS Winston Churchill to assist the Chinese naval forces in responding to this incident,” said Ertugrul. “The attempted pirating of the MV Tai An Kou underlines the continued threat that piracy and armed robbery at sea poses to international shipping.”
Winston S. Churchill arrived at the scene and established communication with the crew of the Tai An Kou, who had locked themselves in a safe room and out of immediate danger. The destroyer also launched her helicopter to maintain oversight of the cargo ship.
Independent deployer, Chinese Navy frigate, Xuzhou (FFG-530), arrived on the scene shortly after. The ship conducted a brief turnover with Winston S. Churchill, asking their crew several questions about the situation.
After noting the pirate mothership that had been reported as tied alongside Tai An Kou was no longer there, Xuzhou launched a boarding team which boarded the vessel and assessed the pirates were no longer aboard at approximately 10:35 a.m.
Xuzhou and Winston S. Churchill maintained communication with each other throughout the operation.
The Chinese Navy thanked Winston S. Churchill for their assistance after the operation was complete.
“Merchant vessels have the power to make themselves less of a target for pirates by following the basic security advice provided by the Best Management Practice guidance,” stated Ertugrul.
“Piracy is an international problem that requires cooperation. The navies deployed in this region work best when they work together,” he continued.
Established in Jan. 2009 to conduct counterpiracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin, CTF 151 supports the Best Management Practice methods that are promoted to the shipping industry for the avoidance of piracy.