Pirates captured in a commando raid on a hijacked Japanese oil tanker last Sunday will be transferred to Tokyo in order to face trial. It will be the first time Japan makes use of a 2009 anti-piracy law.
Last Saturday the 57 400 ton tanker MV Guanabara was attacked in the Indian Ocean roughly 400 nautical miles east of Oman, AFP reports. The tanker was heading from the Ukraine to China when it was boarded by pirates, but the crew reportedly managed to hide in a ‘citadel’ or safe room. They issued a distress call on Saturday afternoon, causing ships from the Combined Maritime Force (CMF) anti-piracy effort to sail to their location.
On Sunday US commandos from the destroyer USS Bulkeley, supported by an SH-60 helicopter, boarded the ship and seized four pirates without firing a shot. All 24 crew on board, consisting of 18 Filipinos and two nationals each from Croatia, Montenegro and Romania, were unharmed. The Turkish warship TCG Giresun also arrived on the scene to assist the Guanabara.
“The ships and aircraft under my command have today scored a real and immediate victory through the disruption of a suspected act of piracy and the detention of individuals believed to be engaging in piracy,” said the CMF’s counter-piracy commander, Commodore Abdul Alheem. The CMF patrols more than 2.5 million square miles of international ocean with roughly three dozen ships from Australia, France, Germany, Pakistan, Canada, Denmark, Turkey, the United States and United Kingdom.
“Through our mutual cooperation and shared coordination, [task force] CTF-151 and our partner organisations have prevented the kidnapping of legitimate mariners who sought only to go peacefully about their business. Today there will be a merchant ship sailing freely that would not be doing so were it not for the efforts of CTF-151,” Alheem said.
Japan is now planning to transfer the pirates to Tokyo where they will be formally arrested and their cases taken over by the Tokyo District Court. For serious cases of piracy in international and Japanese waters, pirates face between five years and life in prison.
Government spokesman Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, told a news conference on Tuesday that Tokyo was “making arrangements” with relevant countries about how to deal with the pirates.
Japan has two destroyers taking part in multi-national anti-piracy efforts, with 420 personnel as well as maritime patrol aircraft.
Japanese navy ships are not allowed to use force except to protect Japanese interests and in self defence, although as a last resort they may fire at the hulls of pirate ships that are attacking or about to attack other vessels.