GULF OF ADEN – USS Pinckney (DDG 91), assigned to Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, working under Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) based in Bahrain, disrupted a group of suspected pirates close to the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), south of Yemen, Dec. 19.
The Merchant Shipping Industry Best Management Practices, Version 4 (BMPv4) encourages merchant vessels to register with the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization (UKMTO) while transiting areas known to be high risk for piracy.
At approximately 8:40 a.m., the Motor Vessel (MV) Nordic Apollo reported to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organisation (UKMTO) they were under attack and been fired upon by pirates from a skiff. Having registered their route with UKMTO in accordance with BMPv4, Nordic Apollo’s position was relayed to counter-piracy forces operating in the region. At approximately 11:00 a.m., the M/V Heather, operating 30 nautical miles from Nordic Apollo, reported suspicious activity by a skiff.
Pakistan Navy Rear Admiral Kaleem Shaukat, CTF 151’s commander, authorised Pinckney to investigate. Nordic Apollo confirmed the pirate attack but stated they no longer had sight of the skiff. In response to the distress call, Pinckney made best speed to the area, issued a radio warning to other vessels in the vicinity, and launched her MH-60R helicopter.
The helicopter crew successfully tracked and located the skiff, observing nine suspected pirates and pirate paraphernalia on board, including several ladders, weapons and fuel containers. The suspected pirates were seen attempting to cover their weapons with blankets and throwing the ladders overboard as Pinckney closed their position.
Intercepted by the helicopter and Pinckney, the skiff stopped and the suspected pirates threw their weapons, identified as five AK-47 rifles, one rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher and three RPG rounds, overboard.
Having stopped the suspect vessel, Pinckney was given authorisation to conduct a boarding using their visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team. Once aboard, the VBSS team confirmed there were nine suspected pirates, one grappling hook, 36 barrels of fuel, a 75hp and a 45hp outboard engine. Scuttling one outboard motor, they left the skiff with enough fuel and water to return back to shore.
Commander Matthew M. McGonigle USN, Pinckney’s commanding officer, praised the crew for their efforts, saying:
“My crew responded in an exceptional reaction time and with complete professionalism. With the helicopter in the air, acting in conjunction with the ship, we were able to have full coverage of the situation and stop them carrying out any further illegal activities.”
“The operation was carried out in accordance with our pre-rehearsed responses to such an event and I am very proud of the Pinckney’s crew and all those involved.”
Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, a multi-national, mission-based task force, working under Combined Maritime Forces to conduct counter-piracy operations in the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean.
Jack Lang, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Legal Issues related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was recently quoted as saying:
“Piracy is also one of the main obstacles to the delivery of food aid, the lifeline for more than 2 million Somalis or about 27 per cent of the population.”
The presence of Coalition Navy vessels in the region demonstrates a commitment to regional security and stability. To continue to counter and deter piracy successfully, Coalition efforts must be complimented by proactive measures by commercial shippers, regional governments, and the international community.
Piracy is a threat to the security of all nations and requires an international solution. Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) are committed to continuing operations that deter piracy – and other destabilizing activities in the maritime arena – to create a lawful maritime order and promote the maritime environment as a safe place for mariners with legitimate business.