A request for assistance from a South Korean Merchant Vessel in the Indian Ocean on Feb. 10 led to Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) warship HMS Cornwall securing the release of Yemeni crew of a pirated dhow from their 17 Somali captors and returning the fishing vessel to its rightful owners. Items found with the dhow confirmed that it was acting as a ‘mother ship’ for Somali pirates who had captured it on Nov. 11, 2010.

HMS Cornwall is currently the Command Platform for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, the counter-piracy mission of CMF. On Feb. 10 Cornwall’s Officer of the Watch observed a dhow acting suspiciously and received a distress call from the South Korean Merchant Vessel Yong Jin reporting a potential pirate threat. HMS Cornwall’s arrival on scene disrupted the attack, and the warship’s boarding teams, supported overhead by her Lynx helicopter, searched and secured the Yemeni-flagged dhow. An initial search found 22 people on board, three skiffs, powerful outboard motors and various items of equipment associated with pirates boarding merchant vessels, such as ladders, enabling the dhow to act as ‘mother ship’ for a group of pirates operating in the area.

Five of the people on the dhow were the original Yemeni crew who had been held hostage for 92 days.

HMS Cornwall’s commanding officer, Commander David Wilkinson, said

“Our presence in the area has had a hugely significant effect on the lives of five Yemeni fishermen, who have been freed from over three months of pirate captivity and can now return to their families. In addition we have restored a merchant vessel to legitimate use on the high seas and my highly trained team have conducted a very slick boarding operation which has ensured that this pirate vessel is no longer able to operate. This demonstrates the reassurance and security offered by the presence in these waters of HMS Cornwall and other warships from Combined Maritime Forces“

In accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and in cooperation with non-member forces, CTF-151′s mission is to disrupt piracy and armed robbery at sea and to engage with regional and other partners to build capacity and improve relevant capabilities in order to protect global maritime commerce and secure freedom of navigation.

CMF is a multi-national naval partnership, which exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across 2.5 million square miles of international waters in the Middle East, which encompass some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.