|USNS Spearhead (U.S. Navy photo)|
Capt. Heidi Agle, the commodore, had been directing a training exercise against piracy with maritime agencies of Ghana when the hijacking provided a real-life lesson, she said in a telephone interview Friday from her base in Italy.Eventually, after the hijacked ship neared the waters of Sao Tome and Principe the Nigerian navy successfully assaulted the captured ship and took the ship back. One pirate died during the recapture.
First word came from the French Embassy, which sent information to Agle's USNS Spearhead via Ghanaian officials and U.S. diplomats of a possible pirate ship loitering off Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
There, pirates seized the Dubai-owned MT Maximus, on lease to a South Korean company and carrying 4,700 tons of diesel fuel, on Feb. 11.
The Spearhead tracked down the hijacked Maximus, identified it and then monitored its
progress for two days as it sailed from Ivorian into Ghanaian waters. Then Agle handed over to Ghana's Navy, which continued to shadow the ship until it entered the waters of Togo, when that country's navy took over.
The rescue was directed by Nigerian Rear Admiral Henry Babalola, who told the AP that it was made possible by a maritime agreement allowing Nigeria to patrol Sao Tome's waters.More about Spearhead here
"When we challenged them (the pirates), they said that they were in international waters" with the law of the sea on their side. But the agreement allowed the Nigerians to storm the ship after eight hours of attempted negotiations.
"International cooperation is the new mantra for maritime security," Babalola said. "We cannot go it alone."
Six pirates were captured and 18 crew members freed. Several pirates escaped with two crew members who remain hostages, Steffen said.