Guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91), assigned to Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, disrupted a group of suspected pirates close to the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), south of Yemen, Dec. 19. The Merchant Shipping Industry Best Management Practices, Version 4 (BMPv4) encourages merchant vessels to register with the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization (UKMTO) while transiting areas known to be high risk for piracy. At approximately 8:40 a.m., the Motor Vessel (M/V) Nordic Apollo reported to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization (UKMTO) they were under attack and been fired upon by pirates from a skiff. Having registered their route with UKMTO in accordance with BMPv4, Nordic Apollo's position was relayed to counter-piracy forces operating in the region.
At approximately 11:00 a.m., the M/V Heather, operating 30 nautical miles from Nordic Apollo, reported suspicious activity by a skiff. Pakistan Navy Rear Adm. Kaleem Shaukat, CTF 151's commander, authorized Pinckney to investigate. Nordic Apollo confirmed the pirate attack, but stated they no longer had sight of the skiff. In response to the distress call, Pinckney made best speed to the area, issued a radio warning to other vessels in the vicinity, and launched its MH-60R helicopter. The helicopter crew successfully tracked and located the skiff, observing nine suspected pirates and pirate paraphernalia on board, including several ladders, weapons and fuel containers. The suspected pirates were seen attempting to cover their weapons with blankets and throwing the ladders overboard as Pinckney closed their position. Intercepted by the helicopter and Pinckney, the skiff stopped and the suspected pirates threw their weapons, identified as five AK-47 rifles, one rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher and three RPG rounds, overboard. Pinckney was given authorization to conduct a boarding using their visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team and once aboard, the VBSS team confirmed there were nine suspected pirates, one grappling hook, 36 barrels of fuel, and 75 and 45 horsepower outboard engines. The VBSS team scuttled one outboard motor and left the skiff with enough fuel and water to return back to shore. Cmdr. Matthew M. McGonigle, Pinckney's commanding officer, praised the crew for their efforts. "My crew responded in an exceptional reaction time and with complete professionalism. With the helicopter in the air, acting in conjunction with the ship, we were able to have full coverage of the situation and stop them carrying out any further illegal activities. "The operation was carried out in accordance with our pre-rehearsed responses to such an event, and I am very proud of the Pinckney's crew and all those involved."
Piracy is a threat to the security of all nations and requires an international solution. The presence of coalition navy vessels in the region demonstrates a commitment to regional security and stability. To continue to counter and deter piracy successfully, coalition efforts must be complimented by proactive measures by commercial shippers, regional governments, and the international community.
Pinckney is assigned to Combined Task Force 151, a multi-national, mission-based task force working under Combined Maritime Forces, to conduct counter-piracy operations in the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean.