Saturday, May 9, 2009

Norfolk-Based Cargo & Ammo Ship Fends Off Pirates

Via -

The Lewis and Clark is no stranger to African pirates.

Earlier this year, the ship played host to about a dozen men captured by a Navy-led, anti-piracy task force. The suspected pirates were eventually returned to Somalia.

Wednesday, the Norfolk-based dry cargo and ammunition storage ship had a different kind of encounter off the Somali coast.

According to the U.S. Navy Central Command in Bahrain, the ship was pursued by two suspected pirate skiffs for more than an hour.

From about two nautical miles away, the skiffs fired small arms at the supply ship, which has a crew of about 11 sailors and 124 civilians.

The skiffs got within a nautical mile of the supply ship, which sped up and used a special acoustic device to warn the boats to stop.

The Lewis and Clark has an "embarked security team," according to a Central Command news release. The Navy would not disclose what kind of weapons such teams use.

Capt. Steve Kelley, commander of Task Force 53, which the supply ship is assigned to, said the crew's actions "were exactly what the U.S. Navy has been recommending to prevent piracy attacks for both commercial and military vessels. Merchant mariners can and should use Lewis and Clark's actions as an unequivocal example of how to prevent a successful attack from occurring."

More than 30,000 vessels transit the Gulf of Aden annually. The Navy reports that there have been 97 attempted hijackings of merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden so far this year; 27 were successful.

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