A pirate attack in the Indian Ocean has been foiled by the Royal Navy. RFA Fort Victoria, which is on patrol near Somalia and is part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, a civilian-manned fleet which provides support for the Navy, forced pirates to abandon an attempt to hijack cargo ships.
The Somali pirates were planning to use a hijacked ship called the Liquid Velvet to launch further attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
The Liquid Velvet, a Greek-owned chemical tanker, which had a crew of 23, was hijacked in November. On Tuesday, the pirates began moving the ship towards the Gulf of Aden and into international waters.
Fort Victoria, which is operating as part of Nato’s Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean, cut off the vessel’s progress when it was 90 miles from the coastline and forced it to return to Somalia.
Fort Victoria approached the Liquid Velvet under cover of darkness, before circling the vessel at speed. The ship’s Lynx helicopter was also used. Fort Victoria then followed Liquid Velvet as she retreated towards Somalia.
The pirates usually use fishing boats as “motherships” for launching attacks on shipping from small speedboats.
The Liquid Velvet would have provided the pirates, who are armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, with a far larger range to launch their attacks.
Captain Gerry Northwood, commander of the UK counter-piracy task group, said: “Left unlocated and free to roam the shipping lanes, the Somali pirates in the MV Liquid Velvet would have been a real threat to the safety of international shipping in the Indian Ocean.”
“Working with our Nato partners, this was a highly successful team effort, which permitted RFA Fort Victoria to disrupt the Somali pirates and return them to their anchorage empty-handed.”
Pirates are currently holding seven major merchant vessels, and multi-million pound ransom negotiations are believed to be ongoing.
Piracy costs the world economy billions a year, as ships are forced to take longer routes to avoid being attacked. Insurance costs have also jumped.