In the evening of 5th January, a merchant vessel sailing 260 miles off the Somali Coast, made a distress call, reporting that she was coming under attack by six men in a fast moving boat, armed with rocket propelled grenades. Thankfully, having employed avoidance tactics, the merchant vessel was able to repel the attack.
Upon hearing the distress call, NATO warship USS Halyburton, operating as part of NATO's counter piracy operation - Ocean Shield, and on patrol 80 nautical miles away, launched her helicopter and was able to quickly locate a suspect boat - which was by now towing another vessel, with several men on board.
EU Naval Force (EU Navfor) French Frigate Surcouf, operating as part of the EU's counter piracy mission - Operation Atalanta, made best speed to the area, as a German EU Navfor Maritime Patrol Aircraft kept watch overhead. Upon arrival, and in full cooperation with the NATO warship, the boarding team from French warship Surcouf boarded the two suspect vessels and apprehended twelve men in total. All twelve men are currently being held on board Surcouf for evidence collection in order to fully assess the possibility of legal prosecution.
In a recent press conference held on board Surcouf during her port visit to Port Victoria, Seychelles, the Commanding Officer, Commander Hugues Lainé stressed the importance of not lowering the guard towards piracy, as the threat remains, despite the drop in pirate attacks during the past year.
Operation Atalanta commenced in December 2008 and is focused on the deterrence and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali Coast. The EU mission also provides protection to World Food Programme (WFP) and African Union Mission on Somalia (AMISOM) shipping, together with the protection of vulnerable shipping on a case by case basis and the monitoring of fishing activities.