Somalia — U.S. Navy Destroyer Locates Pirated Vessel

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)