, MANAMA, Bahrain, Apr 24 – The British military support ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) has thwarted two pirate attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden.
A statement sent to newsrooms on Friday said that Wave Knight (A389) working together with the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) thwarted the attacks on April 18, resulting in the release of 13 hostages and disrupting the activities of 14 Somali pirates.
“This is a clear demonstration of how cooperation between more than a dozen international naval forces can result in the successful disruption of piracy activity,” said Royal Navy Commodore Tim Lowe, Deputy Commander of the CMF.
“In the last 72 hours alone, coordinated efforts of six different nations resulted in the release of 49 innocent merchant mariners who had been held hostage by armed pirates, as well as the interception of 46 suspected pirates.”
Mr Lowe cautioned that naval forces will not be the sole solution to piracy, but by coordinating international naval efforts, criminal acts of piracy will continue to be disrupted.
The statement read that ‘while working in conjunction with international naval forces deployed to the region, Wave Knight received a distress call at approximately 8:00 a.m. from Merchant Vessel Handy Tankers Magic, which was under attack by pirates’.
The attack was said to have broken off before Wave Knight arrived, but the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship followed the skiff to a fishing dhow, later confirmed to be a pirate “mother ship.”
Via radio, Wave Knight ordered the dhow to stop and used a Royal Navy armed force protection team as well as the ship’s own weapons team to provide cover. The pirate vessel complied.
“Dutch warship HNLMS De Zeven Provincien (F802), deployed as part of the NATO’s Standing Naval Maritime Group 1 (SNMG-1), arrived on-scene and determined there were pirates and hostages aboard the vessel,” the statement read.
Ultimately, 13 fishermen who had been held hostage by pirates since April 12, were freed and able to return home to Yemen.
The seven suspected pirates aboard the dhow were not captured in the act of piracy and were therefore released, but they were disarmed and their weapons destroyed.
“Two hours later, Wave Knight received a second distress call from Merchant Vessel Front Ardennes. Wave Knight arrived on scene and successfully deterred the skiff and prevented the pirates from boarding the tanker. Following repeated warnings to move away, Wave Knight fired warning shots, which caused the pirates to break off their attack and flee the scene.”
Wave Knight was assisted by helicopters from the NATO task group ships and followed the pirate skiff for six hours. They managed to manoeuvre into a position to stop the suspected pirates, allowing Winnipeg’s boarding team to disarm and then subsequently release the suspected pirates.
“RFA Wave Knight is a modern replenishment ship designed to be able to support a myriad of Coalition maritime operations,” said Royal Fleet Auxiliary Capt. I. N. Phillips, Wave Knight’s Commanding Officer.
“Our primary role is refuelling and aviation operations, but we are fully capable of conducting anti-piracy operations in and around the Horn of Africa. We have been on station for over a year providing support to many nations, and we remain committed to helping ensure maritime security.”
CMF is comprised of 23 nations whose role is to conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO) throughout the region to help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment. Maritime Security Operations help develop security in the maritime environment, which promotes stability and global prosperity.