Aircraft operating on behalf of Luxembourg have flown 2 500 hours during anti-piracy operations as part of the European Union Naval Force’s (EU Navfor’s) Operation Atalanta.
The Luxembourg government has funded CAE Aviation to fly two Fairchild SW 3A Merlin aircraft from Mahe in the Seychelles in support of the EU Naval Force. Since the first flight on September 29, 2009, 440 sorties have been flown for a total of 2 500 hours in support of Operation Atalanta counter-piracy operations, the EU Navfor has announced.
The main tasks of the aircraft are to perform monitoring to locate designated or suspected pirate vessels, mother ships and skiffs and to help build up a complete maritime picture.
“The Fairchild aircraft, equipped with a comprehensive suite of sensors and inherent flexibility and speed has also been used to assist vessels under pirate attack in coordination with other assets, such as EU Navfor helicopters and warships,” the task force said.
Meanwhile, on Saturday the EU Navfor Flag Ship, Portuguese frigate Vasco Da Gama, disrupted a skiff which was suspected of launching an attack on the MV Ejnan in the Gulf of Aden.
The Portuguese warship intercepted a distress call from the MV Ejnan reporting that it was being attacked by a skiff. The Vasco Da Gama was immediately tasked to proceed to the area in order to investigate the incident. During her approach, radio contact was maintained and several recommendations were passed to the merchant vessel trying to repel the attack. By following these directions the vessel fended off the pirates and reported being safe.
The helicopter from the British warship HMS Richmond, which was also tasked to respond, spotted the skiff which contained four suspected pirates. The individuals onboard realized that they had been located and began to throw the majority of their piracy equipment overboard. The helicopter passed the position of the skiff to Vasco Da Gama as she was the closest warship in the area. A few minutes later, Vasco Da Gama’s own helicopter intercepted the skiff and the boarding team was sent onboard.
As there was insufficient evidence of piracy to pursue a prosecution, the pirate equipment was confiscated and the four suspected pirates were returned to Somalia.
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 International Maritime Bureau.