Anti-piracy warship sinks pirate skiffs


The German frigate FGS Niedersachsen on patrol in the southern Somali Basin has disrupted a pirate attack force by sinking their two boarding skiffs, the European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) has announced.

The FGS Niedersachsen was on a routine patrol on Friday when it came across a fishing dhow and two attack skiffs, with small arms and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) on board.

As the vessels were suspected of carrying out a number of attacks on merchant vessels in the area, the German frigate decided to disrupt the vessel. However, due to concern for possible hostages on board, the Niedersachsen did not take direct action against the dhow. Instead, it opened fire on the two attack skiffs, sinking them in the process.
“Without attack skiffs, it is highly unlikely that the suspected pirates could successfully board a vessel,” the EU Navfor said. “This disruption has undoubtedly hampered pirate action and avoided highly probable attacks on merchant shipping and vulnerable vessels in the area.”

After losing its skiffs, the dhow changed course and made its way back toward Somalia.

In the last week there have been seven attempted hijackings off the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). On June 8 a chemical tanker was hijacked in Benin’s Contonou port and some of her cargo offloaded onto another vessel. After robbing the vessel, the attackers left the tanker.

As of June 13 pirate have hijacked 26 vessels out of 243 attempts this year. Somali pirates have been responsible for 21 of those successful hijackings and are currently holding 23 vessels and 439 hostages, according to the IMB.

The Niedersachsen has not just taken part in anti-piracy operations – on April 20 it discovered a Yemeni dhow with complete engine failure drifting off the Yemeni coast. Engineers from the frigate fixed the dhow’s engine and the vessel continued on its way.

The F-208 Niedersachsen on March 15 joined the EU Navfor’s Operation Atalanta aimed at protecting vulnerable ships, especially those of the World Food Programme. The 130 metre long frigate has two Sea Lynx helicopters on board and a crew of 215. She was commissioned by the German Navy in 1982.

FGS Niedersachsen is one of eight of Germany’s Bremen Class (F122) frigates. They are armed with Harpoon anti-surface missiles, Sea Sparrow and RAM surface-to-air missiles, a 76 anti-air and anti-surface gun, two 20mm guns and torpedoes.