NATO vessel Rotterdam frees hijacked dhow
On 13 August 2012, the armed boarding team of the Dutch naval vessel HNLMS Rotterdam freed a pirated vessel in the Gulf of Aden and detained six suspected pirates.
The successful action was the result of a jointly-conducted operation of ships and patrol aircraft from NATO and the European Union.
HNLMS Rotterdam is the flagship of Operation Ocean Shield, NATO’s counter-piracy operation.
The initial search for the suspected pirate vessel started on 8 August when local Puntland port authorities reported a possible hijacking of a dhow. The dhow was detected two days later by the European Union naval vessel Lafayette. After boarding the vessel it was determined that the suspected pirates had transferred to another vessel, the Bourhan Nour, which was subsequently located by another EU Naval Force unit, the German frigate Sachsen.
Naval intelligence suggested that the pirated dhow was heading for eastern Somalia to link up with other pirates. NATO and EU forces then decided to set a trap and remove this threat to international merchant shipping.
"There was not really anywhere for them to go", explains Captain Huub Hulsker, Commanding Officer of the HNLMS Rotterdam. "The situation was clear and some strict orders and two warning shots later, the suspected pirates surrendered. The boarding team was on board and in control of the vessel within the next 20 minutes, separating the pirates from a grateful dhow crew. A grateful dhow crew, an impressive first action of my whole team early in my deployment and six suspected pirates detained on board, awaiting further decisions - this is a result that counts.”
Commodore Ben Bekkering, the Commander of NATO’s counter-piracy mission added that "it is clear that the pirates are experiencing increasing pressure. If they make it to the open sea, they find it increasingly difficult to stay undetected and find opportunities to attack merchant vessels. That can be credited to a broad international effort and the effective coordination between many participants. In this case, NATO and EU worked closely together. The fact that Rotterdam could execute the last step had everything to do with the team effort that preceded it".
NATO's Operation Ocean Shield cooperates closely with other naval forces including US-led maritime forces, EU naval forces and national actors operating against the threat of piracy in the region, which has helped to reduce the rate of piracy by more than half compared to last year, according to the International Maritime Bureau.