It has been a busy couple of days for EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) flagship ESPS Méndez Núnez. The Spanish warship, which is conducting EU counter piracy patrols off the Somali coast, was once again able to provide assistance to a vessel released from Somali pirate control.
The super tanker MV Smyrni, with a crew of 26, was carrying 135,000 tonnes of crude oil when she was hijacked on May 11, 2012. After ten months of being held in a pirate anchorage off the Somali coast, it is understood that a ransom was paid for the vessel, and on Sunday March 10, she was released by her armed pirate captors.
After being informed of the release, and fresh from providing assistance to chemical tanker MV Royal Grace, ESPS Mendez Nunez was tasked to closely monitor MV Smyrni as she moved away from the pirate anchorage. European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) German and Spanish P-3 maritime patrol aircraft also provided reconnaissance support overhead.
Early on the morning of Monday March 11, a private security team was tasked by the ship’s owner to protect the vessel as she proceeded north to Salalah. ESPS Mendez Nunez has resumed her EU counter piracy patrols, the EU Navfor said.
Speaking about the assistance given to MV Smyrni, Rear Admiral Pedro García de Paredes, who is the force commander of the EU counter-piracy task force said: “I am relieved that MV Smyrni has been released. Her crew is now safe and they will shortly be reunited with their families, after what has been a very difficult 10 months.
“We must remember that two ships are still being held by pirates and 60 men are still being held hostage against their will. Recent disruptions by EU Naval Force warships show that pirates are still intent on getting out to sea to attack ships. We must remain vigilant, any complacency by ships transiting the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden will be seized on by pirates. The pirates’ business model is fractured, but it is not broken. The threat remains.”
According to the International Maritime Bureau, as of March 10 there have been 47 attacks against ships and incidences of armed robbery at sea around the world this year. Three ships have been hijacked so far. Somali pirates are currently holding five vessels and 65 hostages.