Ready for Romeo

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Somalia: USNS Ship takes pirates under fire


Hat tip to Maggie: U.S. ship fires shots toward boats off Somalia:
Security forces aboard a U.S. naval vessel fired warning shots toward two approaching small boats off the Somali coast Tuesday, the U.S. military said Wednesday.
The USNS John Lenthall is one of 14 fleet refueling ships operated by Military Sealift Command.

The rounds landed in the water, prompting the boats to turn around, and no casualties were reported, the military news release said.

It is unclear whether the boats were trying to attack the 41,000-ton USNS John Lenthall, the military said.

"It is clear they were not following the international rules of the road observed by mariners around the globe," it said.

The release noted that the location of the incident, the types of boats involved and the maneuvering were all "consistent with reports from previous attacks on merchant vessels in the region."

The USNS John Lenthall is one of 14 "fleet replenishment oilers" in the Military Sealift Fleet Support Command, according to a U.S. Navy Web site. Oilers refuel Navy ships at sea and any aircraft they may be carrying.
NavCent Press Release here:
USNS JOHN LENTHALL, OFF THE COAST OF SOMALIA - An embarked security team aboard the United States Naval Ship (USNS) John Lenthall (AO 189) fired warning shots in the vicinity of two small boats, Sept. 23. There were no reports of casualties.

Despite defensive measures to deter the vessels from approaching John Lenthall, small boats continued to approach the ship. The rounds impacted the water approximately 50 yards from the closest boat and resulted in both small boats ending their pursuit. All shots were accounted for as they entered the water.

"This incident is clear proof that all mariners must remain vigilant," said Captain Steve Kelley, the commander responsible for all Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships in the region. "I am extremely pleased with the actions taken by the ship's master and ultimately by the security personnel aboard. They initially used defensive measures and when those weren't enough the security personnel took action to defend the ship."

While it is unclear if personnel on the boats were intent on attacking the 41,000-ton ship, it is clear they were not following the international rules of the road observed by mariners around the globe. More importantly, the location of the incident, the types of boats involved (small open skiffs), and the maneuvering they undertook was consistent with reports from previous attacks on merchant vessels in the region.

Lenthall is one of 14 fleet replenishment oilers operated by MSC and provides underway replenishment of fuel to U.S. Navy ships at sea and jet fuel for aircraft assigned to aircraft carriers. The ship is deployed to the region providing fuel to U.S. Navy and Coalition warships. The oiler is 677.5 feet (206.5 meters) long, and is 97.5 feet (29.7 meters) wide.

The incident did not take place in the Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) in the Gulf of Aden, an area utilized by the Combined Maritime Forces to focus their efforts against de-stabilizing activities. Coalition forces patrol the MSPA on the seas and in the skies above on a routine basis.

MSC operates approximately 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.

The incident is under investigation.

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