Entries in Ships (3)


Dutch Warship Destroys Pirate 'Mother Ship'

NATO(NEW YORK) -- Somali pirates may not be as active as they once were in the waters off of east Africa, but they still pose a significant danger to anyone who crosses their path. As a group of alleged pirates learned Wednesday, however, AK-47s are no match for the power of a NATO warship.

Early Wednesday, the crew of the Dutch warship HNMLS Rotterdam spotted a dhow close to the Somali shoreline. Because these kinds of fishing vessels are often used as "mother ships" for pirate crews, a boarding team was routinely dispatched to inspect the vessel.

As the boarding party neared the dhow, the Dutch sailors took sustained gunfire from both the dhow and fighters on shore. The boarding party returned fire and very quickly the dhow ignited in flames and those aboard jumped in the water to escape the blaze. The firefight killed one person aboard the dhow.

The Rotterdam's crew rescued 25 men from the ocean, but the rescue effort proved dangerous as the gunmen on shore continued to fire at both the boarding party and the Rotterdam.

None of the Rotterdam's crew was injured in the incident, though the rigid-hulled boat the boarding party was using sustained damage.

The suspected pirates received medical attention and are now being detained aboard the Rotterdam, which serves as the flagship for NATO's counter-piracy task force off the waters of Somalia, known as "Ocean Shield."

"We know that pirates are increasingly using larger dhows as mother ships. Therefore we routinely inspect them," said Commodore Ben Bekkering, commander of the NATO task force. "In this instance the pirates openly chose 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."

Somali pirate activity usually decreases during the monsoon period that has just ended, but the drop this year has been especially steep. Only 35 vessels have been attacked so far in 2012 and only five vessels have actually been seized by pirates. In 2010 pirates launched 174 attacks and seized 47 vessels.

The stunning drop in pirate activity is attributed to the continued presence of counter-piracy task forces and the growing use of private security forces aboard commercial vessels.

In addition to the NATO task force, there are two other international naval task forces patrolling the waters off East Africa. One is a U.S. organized force of coalition countries, the other a smaller naval force from European Union member countries. In May, the EU force was given the authority to conduct operations against land-based pirate operations in Somalia.

After Wednesday's attack, Commodore Bekkering said, "It is obvious that the scourge of piracy has not gone away and we need to maintain our vigilance."

The danger remains for the 143 merchant sailors still being held for ransom by Somalia's pirates. Some of these sailors have been held for more than two and half years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Russian Warships Headed for Maneuvers Near Syria

Stocktrek Images/Thinkstock (file photo)(MOSCOW) -- Russia took another step to position itself as a broker in the ongoing Syrian crisis on Tuesday by sending a fleet of navy ships into the Mediterranean Sea for maneuvers.  The naval group includes a contingent of marines and several landing craft.

Russia insists the maneuvers are unrelated to the conflict in Syria, but some Middle East observers believe the move is being made to send a message that Moscow wants plans to protect its interests in the country.

Syria is Russia’s most important relationship in the region, and the coastal city of Tartus is home to a Russian naval fueling station.  Russia also has important pipeline and telecommunications interests in Syria.

The move comes one day after Russia announced it would halt new shipments of weapons to the Syrian government until the uprising calms down.

Russia is also making efforts on the diplomatic front by holding talks with members of the Syrian opposition in Moscow.  The delegation from the Syrian National Council (SNC) says it wants Russia’s help in halting the violence, which, according to the opposition, has claimed more than 17,000 lives.

The SNC says it will not ask Russia to grant asylum to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a request that the Kremlin has already said it would not honor.

United Nations Special Envoy Kofi Annan met with officials in Iran and Iraq on Tuesday as part of his diplomatic efforts to get the Syrian government and the opposition to agree to his previously-announced peace plan.

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney criticized the notion that Tehran could help resolve the conflict. 

“I don’t think anybody with a straight face could argue that Iran has had a positive impact on developments in Syria,” Carney said.

Carney did indicate that the U.S. backed the former U.N. secretary-general’s peace proposal, saying, “Broadly, on the Annan plan, we believe that it is essential that the international community come together behind the plan, that the plan be implemented.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Commander: Iran to Send Navy Ships Near US Coast

Comstock/Thinkstock (file photo)(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran plans to send Navy vessels steaming across the Atlantic and towards the U.S. to build up an open sea presence along the East Coast, according to the Iranian Navy's top commander.

"Just like the global hegemony that is present near our marine borders, we … also plan to establish a strong presence near U.S. marine borders," Iranian Navy Commander Habibollah Sayyari said Tuesday, according to Iran's state news agency.

A spokesperson for the Department of Defense said that Iran is "obviously" free to take their ships into international waters halfway around the world but questioned the country's ability or willingness to do so.

"There is freedom of the high seas," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters on Wednesday.  "Now whether they can truly project naval power beyond the region is another question in and of itself... I wouldn't read too much into what came out of Iran today."

"What is said and what is actually done can be two different things," he said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney was even more blunt in his assessment, saying, "We don't take these statements seriously."

The Iranian commander made the comments at the same Tehran ceremony where another top naval commander reportedly said the country had denied a recent request from the U.S. to establish a direct "hotline" between the two countries.

"We would establish direct contact with the United States if we would ever go to the Gulf of Mexico," Ali Fadavi, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy, said.

Reports emerged earlier this month that some U.S. officials were considering establishing a hotline between the U.S. and Iranian navies after a series of incidents in the Persian Gulf that could potentially have led to a greater conflict.  A senior defense official told ABC News, however, that any discussion of such a hotline was "premature".

"There may or may not be advocates for establishing a naval hotline at some point," the official said then, "but discussion of it is very premature.  There are no proposals for opening up such a channel currently in front of either the secretary of defense or the president."

Little said Wednesday he was not aware of "any contact" between the U.S. and Iranian military about the hotline.

Fadavi said the hotline would be unnecessary if the U.S. would just leave the Persian Gulf altogether where its presence, Fadavi said, is "illegitimate and makes no sense," Iranian Fars News Agency reported.

"They want to have a hotline so that in case of tension, we can settle it but we believe that if they are not deployed in the region, no tension will occur," he said.

Sayyari's announcement also came the same day another top Iranian military official said the country had mass-produced and supplied the Iranian navy with new "anti-ship cruise missiles" with a range of over 124 miles.

The Fars News Agency said Iranian officials "have always stressed that the country's military and arms programs serve defensive purposes and should not be perceived as a threat to any other country."

Earlier this year, two Iranian naval ships crossed through Egypt's Suez Canal, the nation's first venture through the canal in three decades, during a trip into the Mediterranean and on to Syria.

The U.S. territorial sea generally extends 12 nautical miles -- or nearly 14 miles -- off the shore, according to the U.S. Office of Coast Survey.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio