Posted by lex, on December 12, 2007
“The President is authorized to employ so many of the public armed vessels as in his judgment the service may require, with suitable instructions to the commanders thereof, in protecting the merchant vessels of the United States and their crews from piratical aggressions and depredations.
The President is authorized to instruct the commanders of the public armed vessels of the United States to subdue, seize, take, and send into any port of the United States, any armed vessel or boat, or any vessel or boat, the crew whereof shall be armed, and which shall have attempted or committed any piratical aggression, search, restraint, depredation, or seizure, upon any vessel of the United States, or of the citizens thereof, or upon any other vessel; and also to retake any vessel of the United States, or its citizens, which may have been unlawfully captured upon the high seas.”
– Title 33 USC, CH 7 – Regulations for the suppression of piracy
US and British naval forces in the Horn of Africa have been monitoring the status of several merchant ships seized by Somali pirates over the last few months, always remaining hull-up and in radio comms with the captured vessels and in one case opening fire on a pirate skiff being towed behind a captured ship. Although the ships have often been seized just outside Somali territorial waters, the pirates have generally navigated the captured ships inshore.
Ordinarily a ship within 12nm of a sovereign nation becomes the responsibility of the law enforcement arm of that country and may not be pursued by the armed forces of another state. Since Somalia is not so much a “failed state” as much as it is a fully-functioning hellhole, the niceties have been sometimes been omitted.
Recently US forces have escalated the pressure on the pirates by cutting off their re-supply from shore.
Press release from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet Public Affairs
ARABIAN SEA – Merchant Vessel Golden Nori is currently underway after pirates departed the vessel Dec. 12. Dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) is in the vicinity and standing by to provide assistance to the crew. The release marks the first time in more than a year that no ships are held by Somali pirates.
Somalia-based pirates seized the Panamanian-flagged vessel Oct. 28 and held the 23-man crew hostage in Somali territorial waters. Coalition forces continued to monitor the situation, taking appropriate steps to prevent the pirates from resupplying the vessel.
Whidbey Island has been in contact with Golden Nori and is standing by to provide aid to the crew members as needed.
“The Coalition’s anti-piracy efforts off the Somali coast greatly contributed to resolving these matters. Our presence in this region reinforces our commitment to security and safety in the maritime arena,” said Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, Commander, Combined Task Force 58.
Whidbey Island has been on hand to provide aid to other recently released pirated vessels. She provided food, water and fuel to motor vessels Mavuno I and Manuvo II, both of which were released by pirates Nov. 4, and merchant vessel Al Marjan, released Dec. 2. USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) escorted the South Korean-flagged vessels to the port of Aden, Yemen. Whidbey Island also assisted merchant vessel Ching Fong Hwa following its release by pirates Nov. 5.
Whidbey Island is currently deployed to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) and supporting the U.S. sea services’ new Maritime Strategy, which provides opportunities for military forces to work more closely with regional partners and allies to protect and extend security and prosperity, which depend on free use of the seas.
Coalition forces conduct Maritime Security Operations under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that all commercial shipping can operate freely while transiting the region.
The pirates claim to have been paid ransom by the owner and operator of Golden Nori, which – if true – means we’ll probably see them again.