The crew of the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) apprehended sixteen suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden 11–12 February after responding to distress calls from nearby merchant vessels.
The events mark the first time CTF-151 has apprehended suspected pirates. At approximately 3:00 p.m. local time 11 February, the Marshall Islands-flagged Motor Vessel Polaris sent a distress call to all ships in the area reporting that a small skiff containing seven suspected pirates had attempted a forcible boarding of their vessel using a ladder. Polaris crewmembers removed the ladder before pirates could come aboard.
Vella Gulf closed immediately with the M/V Polaris and intercepted a skiff matching the description given by the motor vessel’s crew. The skiff contained individuals fitting the physical descriptions given by Polaris crewmembers. A Vella Gulf visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team conducted a consensual boarding and found several weapons. M/V Polaris rendezvoused with Vella Gulf and provided positive visual identification of the suspected pirates.
At approximately 4:00 a.m. local time on 12 February, the Indian-flagged Motor Vessel Premdivya sent a distress call to all ships in the area reporting that she had been fired upon by a small skiff, and suspected pirates were attempting to board.
Upon reaching the suspect skiff, the helicopter crew from Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42, embarked aboard Vella Gulf, signaled for the skiff to stop immediately. When the skiff failed to stop, the helicopter fired one warning shot. A second warning shot was fired when the suspects continued to flee.
Once the suspected pirates brought the skiff to a complete stop following the second warning shot, Vella Gulf and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) closed immediately to intercept the skiff. VBSS teams from both warships conducted a boarding and found weapons, to include one shoulder-fired antitank rocket launcher (RPG).
The suspected pirates were brought on board Vella Gulf, where they were processed and held until they were transferred to a temporary holding facility on board the supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1).
CTF 151 is a multinational task force that conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. It was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.