Pirates fire at US Navy ship off Somalia


Pirates have fired small arms weapons at a US Navy supply ship off the coast of Eastern Somalia.

The USNS Lewis and Clark (pictured) was chased for about an hour on Wednesday morning by two pirates skiffs, but neither came closer than about one nautical mile to the US vessel, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet said in a statement carried by Reuters.

The small arms fire fell well short of the U.S. ship which speeded up to evade the skiffs.

The USNS Lewis and Clark earlier served as a temporary detention facility for suspected pirates arrested at sea, but its operations are now limited to providing supplies to other US ships operating in the area.

Somali pirates have increased their activities in recent weeks, defying the presence of international navies in the area.

There have been 97 attempted attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden in 2009, 27 of which have been successful, according to the US Navy.

Meanwhile, the US Navy transferred command of the Combined Maritime Forces` (CMF) counterpiracy task force to the Turkish Navy.

During the ceremony, Rear Adm. Caner Bener relieved Rear Adm. Michelle Howard as commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 151.

Howard was not able to attend the ceremony as she was conducting operations at sea.

Established in January 2009, CTF 151 was initially commanded by the US Navy.

Turkey is the second nation to command the counterpiracy task force.

“As I take command, I would like to emphasize that CTF 151 will continue its critical contribution to regional maritime security and lawful maritime order,” said Bener.

“Obviously, it will take time, passion and perseverance, but I believe that during my command our sincere efforts will aide in achieving the goals and objectives of the task force and will bring more stability and peace to the region.”

Bener said he looks forward to commanding the task force and helping deter and thwart piracy off the coast of Somalia.

“Although it has been only four months, CTF 151 has come a long way and has been able to respond effectively to the challenges faced,” he said. “The outstanding cooperation and coordination they established with other maritime actors operating in the area, as well as maritime authorities and agencies has greatly enhanced the safety of sea lines of communication the region. We will continue to extend their success.”

In addition to leading CTF 151, this also marks the first time the Turkish Navy will command a CMF task force. While Howard was not present at the ceremony, she said this change of command has tremendous implications.

Turkey has been a part of CTF 151 for some time now and their participation has been nothing short of invaluable,” she said. “This demonstrates our commitment to fighting piracy as an international Coalition.”

Howard commanded CTF 151 from April 5 to May 3, after relieving Rear Adm. Terence McKnight who stood up the task force.

“With the Turkish Navy at the helm, we’ll have new perspectives on the mission that I expect will enhance the strong international cooperation in place,” said Howard. “There are a lot of experiences we can all share with one another to help make the waterways a better place for everyone.”

CTF 151 is a multinational task force established to conduct counter-piracy operations under a mission-based mandate throughout the CMF area of responsibility to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy in order to protect global maritime security and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations.