Following a recent Combined Maritime Force focused operation, a counter piracy task force has developed significant insights into the activities of mariners off Somalia.

The operation, code named ‘Samurai Sword’, enabled counter piracy forces from Japan, USA, South Korea and Pakistan, working in Combined Task Force 151 (CTF151), to enhance their interoperability alongside the EUNAVFOR task force, CTF465, and independent assets from India and China. The ships, maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters and rigid hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs) enabled enhanced engagement with maritime communities in the region.

JS TERUZUKI's AA Team passing out MEPS to mariners 4Image: JS Teruzuki’s Approach and Assist Team interacting with local mariners.

Since March there have been several attacks on vessels off the Somali coast. This increase in potential pirate activity prompted CTF151 to develop a closer understanding of fishermen and other mariners transiting these waters, particularly those in the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) and the Socotra Gap between the Horn of Africa and the Socotra Islands.

Acting as a deterrent force against any further pirate activity, CTF151 forces operated across the region for two weeks from 14 May. The operation drew to a close with the onset of the monsoon season, with deteriorating weather reducing the potential for pirates to operate.

JS TERUZUKI's AA Team passing out MEPS to mariners 1Image: JS Teruzuki’s Approach and Assist Team interacting with local mariners.

During the fortnight, one of the ships in the task force, JS Teruzuki, responded to a Mayday call from a dhow off Puntland. The ship’s helicopter was launched to assist, as the dhow neared the coast. Local security forces were alerted, taking control of the situation and ensuring the dhow crew’s safety. Commenting on the actions of the Ship’s crew, Commander CTF151, Rear Admiral Tatsuya Fukuda JMSDF said: “That JS Teruzuki was able to launch her helicopter and maintain communication with both the dhow and the Puntland security forces was due to planning and a growing understanding of mariners needs in the region.”

PNS SAIF and JS TERUZUKI exchange greetings by using SEMAPHORE, when RDVUImage: PNS SAIF and JS Teruzuki exchange greetings.

The focus of Operation ‘Samurai Sword’ was interaction with local commercial traffic. The discussions aimed to build understanding with the maritime community and confidence that CTF151 is present in the region for the protection of all legitimate mariners. This knowledge will enhance the abilities of counter piracy forces in the future.

On completion, Rear Admiral Fukuda added: “This was an opportunity for CTF151 to work closely with our counter piracy partners, developing our knowledge of seafarers in the region and reassuring the maritime community.”