On Monday, NATO’s counter-piracy Operation OCEAN SHIELD warship UPS HETMAN SAGAIDACHNY of Ukraine boarded a skiff with seven suspected pirates aboard in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC).
As the Ukrainian boarding team approached, the skiff tried to escape and suspected pirates were observed throwing weapons overboard, including AK-47 assault rifles. The skiff had 16 barrels of fuel and multiple outboard engines characteristic of a pirate action group. The suspected pirates surrendered without resistance.
After SAGAIDACHNY completed its investigation and confiscated all items giving the suspected pirates the capacity to conduct attacks, they were released, forcing the suspected pirates to return to shore unarmed, unsuccessful, and unable to pose a threat to merchant shipping in the IRTC. Had the suspected pirates been connected with a particular attack, they might have faced prosecution under national authority. But in this instance, the Ukrainian frigate disrupted the suspected pirates before they could attack a merchant vessel.
Several attacks have been attempted in the past few weeks, but none have been successful. The presence of three counter-piracy task forces and several independent Naval vessels patrolling the Somali Basin and Gulf of Aden, as well as the use of armed security teams and adoption of other counter-piracy best practices by many merchant ships transiting the region, have kept the region free from a successful piracy attack for more than 18 months. Still, the recent attempted attacks emphasize the need for continued vigilance in the merchant community.
“We are very happy with the performance of Ukraine’s frigate since she joined NATO’s counter-piracy task force last month,” said Commodore Henning Amundsen, Task Force 508 Commander. “This latest achievement highlights both the professionalism of Ukraine’s Naval forces and the valuable contribution that they bring to NATO’s counter-piracy operations.”
Press Release, November 19, 2013; Image: NATO