Anti-piracy task force intercepts suspected pirates in Gulf of Aden

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The flagship USS Anzio of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 patrolling the waters around Somalia has intercepted a skiff, successfully disrupting the activities of a group of suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

The US Navy’s Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser Anzio received a report from a merchant vessel that it had been fired on by suspected pirates in a skiff who were reportedly armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher and AK-47 assault rifles.
“The attack was unsuccessful because the large merchant vessel adhered to ‘Best Management Practices’ which involves measures such as maintaining a 24 hour lookout, removing access ladders, reporting suspicious activity and engaging in evasive manoeuvres. This incident is another reminder of how effective these practical precautions are,” said Captain James Gilmour, Royal New Zealand Navy, the Commander of CTF 151, who is embarked on the USS Anzio.

The Anzio was ordered to pursue the suspected pirate vessel and intercept it. Collaborative efforts between CTF 151, NATO (TF 508), a Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force vessel and a Japanese Maritime Patrol Aircraft, resulted in the apprehension of the suspected vessel, the New Zealand Defence Force said.
“This co-operation culminated in the suspected pirates disposing of weapons and equipment that could be used for further piracy attempts. The remaining suspected pirate paraphernalia was also disposed of when the vessel was intercepted by the CTF 151 warship,” Captain Gilmour added.

CTF 151’s mission is to disrupt piracy and armed robbery at sea and to engage with regional and other partners to build capacity and improve relevant capabilities, in order to protect global maritime commerce and secure freedom of navigation.

CTF 151 is one of three task forces operating under the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a 25-nation coalition. CTF 151’s counter-piracy operations focus on the Gulf of Aden, Southern Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Somali basin, an area encompassing 2.5 million square miles.

Two New Zealand Defence Force staff officers support Captain Gilmour in his role as Commander of CTF 151.
“New Zealand is impacted by piracy, even far from its shores. This deployment demonstrates NZ Defence Force’s commitment to protecting security and stability in the international maritime environment,” the New Zealand Defence Force said.

Captain Jim Gilmour has been in command of the Combined Task Force (CTF 151), for three months from June 30. It is the first time that a Royal New Zealand Naval Officer has commanded a major multinational task force in recent decades.

Piracy is a big problem in the Gulf of Aden as Somali pirates prey on ships sailing in the waters off the lawless horn of Africa country, raking in millions of dollars in ransoms and driving up shipping costs. Maritime piracy costs the global economy US$12 billion a year according to researchers.

As of July 20, pirates have hijacked 29 vessels out of 280 attempts this year. Somali pirates have been responsible for 21 of those successful hijackings and are currently holding 20 vessels and 398 hostages, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Yesterday the European Union Naval Force reported that Somali pirates had released a small tanker, which had been pirated on July 16. The owners of the MV Jubba XX said the vessel was released on July 27 off the coast of Somalia following intervention by Puntland officials and tribal elders and that all the crew are safe.