MANAMA, Bahrain, May 24, 2010 — The USS McFaul, a U.S. Navy Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, located the pirated M/V Iceberg I off the coast of Somalia with up to 50 pirates and more than 20 crew members on board.
The Panamanian-flagged vessel had last been seen off Garacaad, a Somali town and known pirate haven. The Iceberg’s exact location was unknown until the McFaul made a positive identification of the pirated ship on May 19.
The ship initially communicated to the McFaul that it had not been pirated and instead was off course for its next port-of-call due to mechanical difficulties. Visual identification was at first confusing, because the name on the vessel’s hull read, “Sea Express.” Further investigation showed that the name of the ship had been crudely painted over.
After the McFaul requested to board the ship to check on the health and safety of the crew, the Iceberg radioed that they had been taken hostage, noting that the pirates on board were heavily armed.
The McFaul continued to shadow the ship for more than 36 hours, before the Iceberg reversed its course toward the Somali coast.
“We cannot be sure what the pirates plan was if they had not been interrupted. The vessel may have been on its way to either assist other pirates in distress, or look for another merchant vessel to attack,” said Republic of Korea Rear Adm. Beom Rim Lee, commanding officer of Combined Task Force 151, the Combined Maritime Forces’ counter-piracy task force that operates in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin.
“First and foremost, our responsibility is to ensure the safety of the crew. Given the report of heavily armed pirates on board, it was more prudent to monitor the ship’s movement, rather than attempt a rescue,” said Commander
Ronald W. Toland, Jr., the McFaul’s commanding officer. “My crew executed their instructions perfectly and I’m proud of each and every one of them.”
Successful pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin decreased by 40 percent in 2009, increased in part to the presence of coalition warships and also by the use of best management practices by the shipping industry. These practices include the use of razor wire, 24-hour watches, fire hoses and high-speed maneuvers by vessels transiting throughout the area.
CTF 151 is a multinational task force established by CMF in January 2009 to conduct counter-piracy operations. CMF patrols more than 2.5 million square miles of international waters to conduct both integrated and coordinated operations to increase regional security and prosperity.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)