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RFA Wave Knight Disrupts Pirate Attacks

RFA Wave Knight
Suspected pirates surrender their vessel with 13 fishermen hostages
RFA Wave Knight refuels German and Royal Navy combined maritime force ships FGS Mecklenburg Vorpommern (left) and HMS Portland (right)

Royal Navy personnel on board Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Wave Knight thwarted two pirate attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden this weekend resulting in the release of 13 hostages.

British military support ship RFA Wave Knight was working in support of the Combined Maritime Forces that have been operating in the area for many years. At approximately 0800hrs on Saturday 18 April 2009, the ship received a distress call from Merchant Vessel Handy Tankers Magic, which was under attack by pirates.

The attack broke off before Wave Knight arrived, but the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship followed the skiff to a fishing dhow, later confirmed to be a pirate 'mother ship'.

Via radio, Wave Knight ordered the dhow to stop and used a Royal Navy armed force protection team as well as the ship's own weapons team to provide cover. The pirate vessel complied.

Dutch warship HNLMS De Zeven Provincien, deployed as part of the NATO's Standing Naval Maritime Group 1, arrived on the scene and determined there were pirates and hostages aboard the vessel.

The intervention resulted in the release of 13 fishermen who had been held hostage by pirates since 12 April. The seven suspected pirates aboard the dhow were not captured in the act of piracy so they were released, but they were disarmed and their weapons destroyed.

Two hours later, Wave Knight received a second distress call from merchant vessel MV Front Ardennes. Wave Knight arrived on the scene and successfully deterred the skiff and prevented the pirates from boarding the tanker. Following repeated warnings to move away, Wave Knight fired warning shots, which caused the pirates to break off their attack and flee the scene.

With the assistance of helicopters from the NATO task group ships HMCS Winnipeg and USS Halyburton, Wave Knight followed the pirate skiff for six hours, until relieved on-scene by Winnipeg, who conducted a boarding of the skiff. Wave Knight provided fuel and landing facilities for the NATO warships' helicopters and was able to manoeuvre into a position to stop the suspected pirates, allowing Winnipeg's boarding team to disarm and then subsequently release the suspected pirates.

The Commanding Officer of RFA Wave Knight, Captain Pilling, said:

"RFA Wave Knight is a modern replenishment ship designed to be able to support a myriad of coalition maritime operations. Our primary role is refuelling and aviation operations, but we are fully capable of conducting anti-piracy operations in and around the Horn of Africa. We have been on station for over a year providing support to many nations, and we remain committed to helping ensure maritime security."

Royal Navy Commodore Tim Lowe, Deputy Commander of the Combined Maritime Forces, said:

"This is a clear demonstration of how co-operation between more than a dozen international naval forces can result in the successful disruption of piracy activity. In the last 72 hours alone, co-ordinated efforts of six different nations resulted in the release of 49 innocent merchant mariners who had been held hostage by armed pirates, as well as the interception of 46 suspected pirates."

Cdre Lowe cautioned that naval forces will not be the sole solution to piracy, but by co-ordinating international naval efforts, criminal acts of piracy will continue to be disrupted.

The Combined Maritime Forces is comprised of 23 nations whose role is to conduct maritime security operations throughout the region to help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment. Maritime security operations help develop security in the maritime environment, which promotes stability and global prosperity.