GULF OF ADEN (NNS) -- Dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) is in the Gulf of Aden standing by to provide assistance to the crew of the Merchant Vessel Golden Nori. The Panamanian-flagged vessel is currently underway after pirates departed the vessel Dec. 12.
Somalia-based pirates seized the Golden Nori 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 release marks the first time in more than a year that no ships are being held by Somali pirates.
"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.
(Source: From Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet Public Affairs)