U.S. Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Munro (WHEC 724), working with British ships HMS Invincible (R05) and HMS Nottingham (D91) in the Gulf of Aden, intercepted a hijacked Thai fishing vessel at around noon March 17.
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT) received telephone reports from the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, concerning the hijacking of Thai-flagged fishing vessel Sirichai Nava 12 by three Somali crew members the evening of March 16, as well as a fax indicating that the hijackers demanded $800,000 in ransom for the vessel’s crew.
Commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, under the direction of COMUSNAVCENT, tasked British Royal Navy aircraft carrier Invincible, destroyer Nottingham and Munro to investigate the situation. A Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) team from Munro boarded Sirichai Nava, while a boarding team from Nottingham boarded a second fishing vessel, Ekhwat Patana, which was with the Thai vessel. Munro’s boarding team detained the Somalis without incident.
One of the crew members of the Thai vessel had a minor flesh wound, which was treated by the Munro boarding team. The Coast Guardsmen also discovered four automatic weapons in the pilothouse, expended ammunition shells on the deck of the vessel, as well as ammunition on the detained suspects. The three suspects were transferred to Munro pending follow-on disposition guidance from higher authority.
Munro is currently on deployment in the region and is assigned to CTF 150, which is the coalition maritime task force conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the vicinity of the Horn of Africa, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, North Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman.
MSO are aimed at setting the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment. Illicit activity at sea has a global impact. MSO pressurizes the maritime environment and is the single most significant component of the conventional maritime effort against terrorism.
Invincible and Nottingham are deployed to the Middle East as part of the Royal Navy Maritime Strike Force 05.
(From Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs)