In a successful attack on a pirate vessel, the coastguard of Seychelles overwhelmed armed Somali pirates and managed to free Iranian and Seychellois crews and their two fishing vessels. President James Michel had ordered the attack himself.Recent legislation clarified the SCG's right to pursue pirates in "hot pursuit" after a hijacking in Seychelles waters.
It is believed that 9 Somali pirates hijacked the 'Galate', which had 6 Seychellois men onboard. The pirates used a dhow, which they had hijacked with 21 Iranian crew members onboard last Friday. This was then used to hijack the Seychellois vessel. The Seychellois crew was moved onto the Iranian dhow following the attack.
Together with the assistance of an EU Maritime Patrol Aircraft, the 'Topaz' located the position of the dhow, which was towing the 'Galate' and tried to engage with the vessel. The pirates responded in a threatening manner and the 'Topaz' fired several warning shots.
The dhow continued to travel towards Somalia, with 'Topaz' in pursuit.
Seychellois President James Michel, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Seychelles Armed Forces, himself gave the orders for 'Topaz' to "intercept the vessel and ensure that it did not reach Somalia," according to a government statement sent afrol News.
This afternoon the 'Topaz' disabled the dhow by firing at the engine of the boat, which resulted in a fire onboard the dhow. The pirates, the Iranian crew as well as the Seychellois men onboard jumped into the sea. The 'Topaz' thus picked up all the six Seychellois men from the sea.
The Seychelles coastguard had also rescued all the Iranian crew members, and among them one Iranian man has been injured, with a gunshot wound to the upper arm. "All the Somali pirates have now also been retrieved from the sea," according to government information.
According to the Seychelles Office of the Commanding Officer, the 'Topaz' repelled yet another Somali pirate attack on its way back to Seychelles with the rescued crews. The 'Topaz' had "returned fire, one attack skiff was sunk and the mother ship exploded and caught fire. The third skiff managed to escape," a statement said. The 'Topaz' continued towards Seychelles, "having taken the decision that the priority was to return the freed hostages home safely and not to risk the lives of the civilians on board by hunting for the third skiff."
***The 'Topaz' had been fired upon by rocket-propelled grenades by the pirates, and had successfully evaded them. "Our men on board the Topaz have shown that they are capable in dealing with piracy in the most difficult of circumstances," President Michel praised the crew. "Our Armed Forces have risen to the challenge and we are all proud of them," he added.***
SCG Topaz is an Indian Trinkat-class fast patrol vessel transferred to the Seychelles from the Indian Navy in 2005 according to www.bharat-rakshak.com:
INS Tarmugli T64 was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 04 March 2002. She was transferred to the Seychelles Coast Guard on 23 February 2005 and was renamed as the SCG Topaz.The top photo shows SCG Topaz in Indian service.
The Seychelles Coast Guard has been actively involved in maritime training with the United States Navy, as set out here:
Lower photo caption:
U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Stuart Cravens, CJTF-HOA, said the Seychelles Coast Guard already has some experience with these procedures.
"The Seychelles Coast Guard does an excellent job of patrolling the Seychelles waters," said Cravens. "Most of the visit, board, search, and seizure they conduct is usually in a compliant situation, meaning the captain and crew of the vessels they board are not aggressive."
With malicious acts such as piracy on the rise, Cravens said the Seychelles Coast Guard members want to be prepared in case such an act is committed in Seychelles territory.
"The Seychelles Coast Guard expressed their concerns to CJTF-HOA about the need for training for non-compliant VBSS situations," said Cravens.
The training consisted of basic techniques of shipboard tactical movement, self-defense, searching and handcuffing procedures.
VICTORIA, Seychelles - Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Boulanger, a member of USS Halsey's visit, board, search and seizure team, demonstrates proper boarding techniques with the Seychelles Coast Guard during training at Seychelles Coast Guard headquarters on August 14, 2008. U.S. service members from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and USS Halsey partnered with the Seychelles Coast Guard to review tactics for visit, board, search and seizure situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Darrell I. Dean)UPDATE: More on EU-tasked Swedish Maritime Patrol Aircraft from MSC(HOA):
Early this morning, 29th March, the EU NAVFOR Force Commander, Rear Adm Giovanni Gumiero, tasked the Seychelles Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) to support the Seychelles Coast Guard vessel Topaz in an anti piracy operation against three hijacked ships.Earlier post on the Swedish Coast Guard MPA here.
It had been reported that a Pirate Action Group (PAG) hijacked a Motor Vessel ARZOO with 14 Indian nationals onboard. EU NAVFOR had been monitoring its movements and noticed that 2 days ago the vessel was abandoned by the pirates near to the Seychelles when the vessel ran out of fuel. The crew were released unharmed. They hijacked another ship (fishing vessel) called GALATE and set course for the northern Somali basin. The Swedish MPA monitored the movements of this vessel and reported to the EU NAVFOR Force HQ. At this time the Seychelles Coast Guard vessel Topaz was vectored onto the position. The EU NAVFOR Luxemburg MPA then arrived and provided cover and positional information to the Topaz.