CTF-151 Flagship TCG Gaziantep assists MV Forward Afla following a suspected pirate attack. (Photo: TCG Gaziantep).

Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 flagship, Turkish frigate TCG Gaziantep, assisted the Merchant Vessel (M/V) Front Alfa following a suspected pirate attack Nov. 21.

M/V Front Alfa contacted the  UK Maritime Trade Organization, reporting that it was being chased by a suspicious skiff with five people on board, approximately 300 nautical miles south east of Salalah, Oman.

All communication was then lost with the Norwegian-owned, Marshall Islands-flagged crude oil tanker.

Gaziantep immediately proceeded to M/V Front Alfa’s last known location to investigate.

In the early hours of Nov. 22, TCG Gaziantep launched her helicopter and reported seeing MV Front Alfa turning slowly in circles. Gaziantep conducted a search of the immediate area for suspect vessels and managed to establish communication with M/V Front Alfa. The ship’s master reported that the crew had locked themselves in a safe room, a maritime best management practice method known as a “citadel.”

Upon arrival in the vicinity of M/V Front Alfa, Gaziantep confirmed the suspected pirates had abandoned the ship and the ship’s crew were unharmed and in control of the vessel continuing with their original voyage.

“The criminal intentions of suspected pirates have been prevented thanks to the quick thinking of the ship’s crew and the fast and coordinated response from coalition forces,” said Turkish Rear Adm. Sinan Ertugrul, CTF 151 commander.

“Combined Maritime Forces are operating in the region as a force for good and I am pleased that my flagship was sufficiently near to provide assistance.”

Ertugrul stressed the importance of ensuring each merchant vessel operate “knowing they 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.”

CTF 151 was established in January 2009 as a multi-national counter-piracy task force. Ships from CTF 151 patrol in the Somali Basin and the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden. CTF-151 also supports the Best Management Practice methods that are promoted to the shipping industry for the avoidance of piracy.

CTF 151 is one of three task forces operated by Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), an international maritime coalition, dedicated to promoting security and prosperity across some 2.5 million square miles (6.5 square kilometres) of international waters in the Middle East. CMF’s main focus areas are countering terrorism, preventing piracy, reducing illegal activities, and promoting a safe maritime environment.