The owner of the civilian tanker attacked by pirates of the coast of North Africa last week has thanked Combined Maritime Forces for saving his crew.

HMAS Melbourne has been serving with Combined Maritime Forces (Photo: Royal Australian Navy)

The UK-flagged chemical tanker MV CPO China was attacked by pirates in the Arabian Sea on Monday, 3 January.

The crew of MV CPO China secured themselves in the ship’s citadel (an anti-pirate stronghold) as an armed boarding party and Sea Hawk Helicopter from Australian frigate HMAS Melbourne forced the pirates to flee.

The owner of MV CPO China Claus-Peter Offen has written to the Royal Australian Navy to express his heartfelt thanks for the rescue effort. “Please allow me to express my sincere gratitude for the action you and the entire crew of HMAS Melbourne have taken to save my vessel,” he said.

“We know this incident could have had a disastrous outcome. Your prompt and swift reaction to the distress call of the ship was a great relief to all people on board the CMV CPO China and the shore staff involved.”

“It is reassuring to experience once again that the brotherhood of sea is still a strong bond among civilized nations and goes way beyond just fulfilling duties, Mr Offen said.

HMAS Melbourne’s Commanding officer Michael Harris says the letter has touched every member of his crew. “My crew did what they are trained to do but it’s a great pat on the back for a job well done,” Commander Harris said. ”Mr Offen’s message was a great late Christmas present, and is the perfect farewell gift as we prepare to head home.”

HMAS Melbourne will be replaced in the Middle East area of Operations by HMAS Stuart which left Australia in late December.

HMAS Melbourne has been serving with CMF’s counter terrorism task force, CTF 150, and counter piracy mission, CTF 151.