The minehunters HMS Middleton and HMS Pembroke were in the Gulf of Aden on their way home when they received a distress call from the MV New Delhi Express.
The 40,000-tonne merchant ship, laden with valuable containers, contacted HMS Middleton to say she was 12 miles to the south west and had suffered an engine failure. That meant she was an easy target for the pirates who operate in the gulf between Somalia and Yemen.
Monsoon rains in the Indian Ocean mean pirates favour the more sheltered Gulf between June and August, so Middleton and Pembroke sailed as quickly as possible to protect the drifting ship.
Having made contact with the vessel the warships readied their weapons and maintained a patrol around her for several hours, protecting her crew and cargo against potential attack until she had fixed her engines and was able to continue north.
HMS Middleton’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Steve Higham, said:
“The threat from piracy in the Gulf of Aden is real and present.
“MV New Delhi Express, disabled and without power, was a potential prime target for pirates.
“Middleton and Pembroke responded immediately to provide assistance when called by her master, and were able to offer protection whilst he completed his repair.
“Our small contribution to maintaining the safety of the maritime community shows the value and flexibility of the Royal Navy’s mine hunting community.”
Navies from dozens of countries work together through the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean to try and prevent cargo vessels being hijacked by pirates in small craft such as skiffs.
The Royal Navy has several mine-hunting ships permanently based in Bahrain, where crews work in the warmer waters which provide a different training environment compared to UK waters.
HMS Pembroke and HMS Middleton were returning to Britain when Friday’s incident happened, having spent two and a half years working in the Middle East. Meanwhile HMS Ocean and HMS Bulwark are currently based in London and Weymouth respectively as part of the UK’s security set-up for the Olympics.
Source: RoyalNavy, August 2, 2012