On 24 October, while conducting routine surveillance off the Somali coast, HNLMS ROTTERDAM the flagship for the NATO ‘OCEAN SHIELD’ counter piracy mission, came under sustained fire from groups of suspected pirates.
A boarding team from Rotterdam was making an approach on a suspect dhow near the coast when they came under fire from ashore and from the dhow itself. Rotterdam returned fire in accordance with Rules of Engagement, during which the dhow was seen to ignite and crew members were observed leaping into the water. One crew member of the dhow was killed in this action and 25 people were subsequently rescued from the water by Rotterdam. Commodore Ben Bekkering, the commander of the NATO Task Force, said that the Rotterdam and her boats remained under sustained fire from the shore throughout, even while attempting to rescue the crew of the stricken dhow and one of Rotterdam’s rigid inflatable boats was damaged.
Small boat from the HNLMS Rotterdam returning fire on a suspect Dhow after coming under fire during an approach off coast Somalia on the 24th of October 2012. (Photo courtesy: HNLMS Rotterdam)
Those rescued were subsequently transferred to the NATO flagship where those who required it, were given prompt medical attention. None of the crew from the ROTTERDAM were injured during this action.
"We know that pirates are increasingly using larger dhows as mother ships. Therefore, we routinely inspect them" says Commodore Ben Bekkering, Commander of the NATO Task Force. "In this instance the pirates openly choose confrontation. This does not happen often and it indicates that we are indeed impeding their operations and in doing so, pushing them to take more extreme options.”
Commodore Bekkering praised the calm professionalism of the ROTTERDAM crew and stated that this incident together with ROTTERDAM’s successful interdiction of seven pirates on 11 October made two things very clear. "Firstly, it is obvious that the scourge of piracy has not gone away and we need to maintain our vigilance. Secondly, the risks to the pirates themselves are becoming much greater and while we regret any loss of life, we will deal with any threat we encounter in a firm, robust but always proportionate manner.”
Suspect Dhow on fire after engagement with a small boat from the HNLMS Rotterdam24 Oct 2012.(Photo courtesy: HNLMS Rotterdam)
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