On 15 December Swedish EU NAVFOR maritime patrol aircraft located a suspicious skiff with five suspect pirates on board. Belgium frigate BNS Louise-Marie was tasked to conduct a surface search of the sea area, and within 3 hours the warship's helicopter was able to overfly the vessel.
Upon arrival at the scene, the warship's boarding team was deployed to apprehend the five suspect pirates, who, having been out at sea and drifting for some time, were suffering from severe dehydration and malnutrition and it was assessed that the men would have died if the warship's crew had not intervened.
After the men were given some food and water, an analysis of the event was undertaken and evidence collected. Early yesterday morning, having looked at the evidence available, the decision was taken to put the men ashore on to a Somali beach.
Speaking about the operation, Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, who is the Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force said "Once again EU Naval Force has prevented suspect pirates from preying on ships at sea. We quite rightly took away their means of carrying out attacks, such as their boat and ladder and they have been returned to the Somali Coast empty-handed and out of pocket. That said, these five men are extremely lucky individuals.
The European Union rightly places a high value on life, and despite their perceived criminal intent, we were able to locate them and give much-needed food and water - rather than watch them die of starvation and dehydration. My intent is to be as tough as we can on piracy, whilst helping Somalis to regain peaceful control of their own country".
Speaking about the release of the five men, EU Naval Force Spokesperson, Lieutenant Commander Jacqueline Sherriff said "On all occasions where suspect pirates are apprehended by the EU Naval Force, every effort is made to achieve a legal finish, however, this is not always possible for a variety of reasons including: insufficient evidence, including a continuity of evidence, or national legislation not in place to support such a prosecution. Notwithstanding an inability to achieve a legal prosecution, if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the persons detained have been involved in an act of piracy, as was the case with this incident, then measures can be taken to prevent such acts occurring again in the future, including disposal of the suspects' vessel and other piracy equipment."
BNS Louise Marie continues with her counter-piracy patrols.