A Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) supply ship foiled an attempt by Somali pirates to attack cargo ships in the Indian Ocean earlier this week.
RFA Fort Victoria blocked an attempt on Tuesday by pirates to sail the hijacked tanker Liquid Velvet from the Somali coast into the Gulf of Aden where they would have used it as a mother ship to launch attacks on passing shipping. Greek-owned chemical tanker Liquid Velvet has been held to ransom since last November.
RFA Fort Victoria, which has Royal Navy force protection personnel on board, cut off Liquid Velvet’s progress after she had sailed 90 miles (145km) from the coastline – forcing her to return to Somalia.
Fort Victoria repeatedly circled the mother ship to push her back and also sent up her Lynx helicopter as both a deterrent and to assess the situation on board.
Once Liquid Velvet had returned to her anchorage RFA Fort Victoria stayed in the immediate area to ensure the pirates, who were armed with machine guns and rifles, did not make another attempt to sail out.
Captain Gerry Northwood, Royal Navy, Commander of the UK’s Counter-Piracy Task Force, said:
“Once the pirates were stopped there was never a chance that they were going to achieve anything as we could take down any efforts they made.
“This was a potential mother ship in terms of it having enough pirate paraphernalia on board to launch attacks on other ships in the area. We have been putting the pirates under a lot of pressure by taking down their dhow action groups so they are starting to get desperate.
“It was a risky decision to sail Liquid Velvet out as it is currently in the latter stages of ransom negotiation. While it is a good platform for them to cover a lot of ground to find another mother ship, if they were to lose the ship to us then they would be out of pocket in a big way.
“This was a very successful operation – if we had not intercepted Liquid Velvet when we had, then these pirates would have posed a very real threat to international shipping in the Indian Ocean.”