The US Navy said it arrested seven suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday after a Marshall Islands-flagged ship sent a distress call to say outlaws had tried to force their way on board.
Crew members of the Polaris removed the pirates’ ladder before they could clamber aboard, the US Fifth Fleet said in a statement.
A team from the guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf then intercepted a small skiff with seven men matching descriptions given by the Polaris crew, it added.
US Navy search teams “found several weapons” on the skiff used by the suspected pirates, US Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said in Washington.
The action was carried out by a new counter-piracy multinational task force, CTF 151, operating in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
“This is the first time that the CTF 151 has apprehended suspected pirates” since it began operating less than a month ago, Whitman told reporters.
The suspected pirates, whose nationality was not given, are being held onboard the Vella Gulf until they are transferred to a temporary holding facility onboard the US naval supply ship Lewis and Clark.
Pirates attacked more than 130 merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden last year, an increase of more than 200 percent on 2007, said the International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy and shipping security issues.
Meanwhile, Singapore will send a landing ship tank, with two Super Puma helicopters, to the Gulf of Aden as part of its contribution to the anti-piracy efforts, the city state’s parliament was told yesterday.
Singaporean Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean said the ship would be deployed for three months with CTF 151 to protect shipping. The ship and helicopters would be deployed once the operational arrangements have been made.
Singapore, as a maritime nation, shares the concerns of the international community regarding piracy, Teo said, stressing that the state was committed to supporting international efforts to keep the sea lanes safe and secure.
He also pointed out that it was not possible for any country, including Singapore, to protect its own shipping in all the key sea lanes of the world.
Hence, all countries would have to depend on international cooperation to secure the sea lanes for everyone’s use and that means littoral states, user states and the international community would have a role to play, Channel News Asia cited Teo as saying.