Dutch marines thwart pirate attack


Dutch marines guarding a merchant vessel off the coast of Yemen have beaten off a pirate attack directed against it, the Dutch ministry of defence said yesterday.

A group of Dutch marines were aboard the Flintstone, a fallpipe vessel which places rocks to protect oil and gas pipelines, when they noticed a nearby fishing vessel launch a high speed skiff at around 5:00 GMT. The crew were directed to the ship’s citadel as the skiff approached.
“The marines tried in vain to stop the fast-moving skiff, occupied by six men armed with an assortment of weapons including a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), by firing tracers as a warning,” the ministry of defence said.

After one of the pirates aimed a rocket propelled grenade at the Flintstone, the marines fired on the skiff, which turned around and rejoined the fishing vessel.
“It’s not excluded that there may have been casualties among the attackers,” the ministry said.

The Flintstone was underway from Singapore to Malta through the Suez Canal when the attack happened, it added. The vessel was built on behalf of Netherlands-based Tideway, an offshore subsidiary for oil and gas activities of Belgium’s Dredging, Environmental and Marine Engineering (DEME) Group.

Dutch marines teams of the Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD) are in certain instances put on board merchant ships on request from the ship’s owners, the defence ministry said on its website.

Last year “heavily armed” VPD teams accompanied 11 ships through pirate infested waters, it added.

Last week the UK’s Royal Navy captured 13 suspected Somali pirates after ships from a NATO-led counter-piracy force intercepted their boat in the Indian Ocean. A Royal Navy auxiliary ship, RFA Fort Victoria, and a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Carney, were sent to investigate a suspected pirate dhow off the Somali coast on Friday. British Royal Marines using speedboats boarded the dhow after it ignored warnings to stop, and found 13 suspected Somali pirates and a “selection of weapons” on board.

Last Thursday pirates attacked the Spanish supply ship SPS Patino in the vicinity of Mogadishu. After firing light weapons into the ships superstructure, they attempted to climb onboard, but were captured by Spanish marines. The six pirates will be prosecuted in Spain.

The seas off Somalia have been plagued by piracy in recent years as Somali gangs have exploited 20 years of lawlessness in their Horn of Africa country by seizing vessels and demanding huge ransoms for them and their crews.

Kenya’s military says piracy has become less frequent since it sent forces into neighbouring Somalia last October to fight al Shabaab rebels and stationed its navy off its southern coast.