Within a week of her latest NATO counter-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden, Devonport-based Royal Navy warship HMS Montrose has disrupted a group of suspected pirates.
The suspects are believed to have been ready to attack a North Korean merchant vessel Mi Rae on Friday (October 1) which was transiting the safe maritime corridors in the Gulf of Aden.
HMS Montrose, a Type 23 frigate, received a distress call from the Mi Rae who reported that a gang of men in a nearby small boat were acting in a suspicious manner. Fearing a pirate attack was imminent, the commanding officer of HMS Montrose immediately by sent the ship’s Lynx helicopter to investigate.
When HMS Montrose’s helicopter arrived at the scene, the suspected pirates moved away from the Mi Rae and the helicopter crew observed the men in the boat throwing objects, including a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, overboard before stopping in the water.
HMS Montrose then despatched her team of Royal Marines and Royal Navy sailors to investigate and question the suspects.
The ship’s commanding officer, Commander Jonathan Lett, said: “HMS Montrose has quickly and effectively deterred piracy in the Gulf of Aden and I am proud of my ship’s company. As part of the NATO counter-piracy task force, HMS Montrose is providing much reassurance to the merchant shipping community.”
NATO has contributed to the international counter-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa since December 2008. The mission has expanded from escorting UN and World Food Programme in the Gulf of Aden. In addition to these activities and as part of the latest mission, Operation Ocean Shield, NATO is working with other international bodies to help develop the capacity of countries in the region to tackle piracy on their own.
The group of ships permanently assigned to NATO a multi-national naval group that provides the NATO Alliance with the ability to quickly respond to crisis situations anywhere in the world. This task group is one of four permanent that form a flexible core around which NATO can build a larger force to meet a wide range of missions that include non-combatant evacuations, counter terrorism, crisis response and embargo operations.
NATO has recently announced its continuing commitment to counter-piracy by extending Operation Ocean Shield to December 2012.
NATO task force ships currently in Operation Ocean Shield: DMS Esbern Snare – Denmark, HMS Montrose Royal Navy, USS Kauffman – United States of America, USS Laboon – USA and ITS Bersagliere – Italy.