March 4, 2009 -- The Swedish Government has given the Swedish Navy the green light to participate in the EU’s mission to eliminate piracy off the coast of Somalia. The Swedish mission will involve the Swedish Navy corvettes HMS Stockholm and HMS Malmö, accompanied by the support vessel HMS Trossö. Kockums is currently engaged in preparing the vessels for this international operation. For Kockums, this also means organizing a rapid-response capability, in case of a serious breakdown, as well as support and maintenance services. We maintain several technical support flying squads.
Pirate attacks against shipping are a growing problem in many parts of the world. A total of about 230 attacks were reported last year, some 100 of which occurred in the waters off Somalia, where the Swedish Navy has now been tasked by the UN with protecting seaborne food relief en route to the country’s starving population. The Gulf of Aden is especially dangerous to enter or pass through.
The Swedish force totals 160 personnel. The Navy’s mission is to protect the food transports, not to track or pursue the pirates. Even so, the mission is highly dangerous, and if support vessels are attacked, the UN’s rules of engagement permit the use of armed force. This means that the vessels would be free to use their weapons.
Heavily armed pirates have transformed the Gulf of Aden into the most dangerous stretch of water in the world. When in African or other dangerous waters affected by piracy, many merchant crews electrify ships’ railings, prepare their water cannon for action and double-up their lookouts.
The pirates often use support vessels, which may take the form of a larger fishing vessel. These are used to launch smaller high-speed motorboats, with as many as ten pirates in each boat. They normally attack their targets while underway, from several directions at once, armed with automatic weapons and, quite often, with recoilless antitank weapons. They board the target vessel by shooting rope ladders onto the deck and fastening them to the railings, while providing covering fire.
In such situations, the crew of the target vessel often withdraw to the bridge and lock themselves in, in accordance with the owner’s standing orders. This makes it easy for the pirates to gain the upper hand and climb aboard. In some instances, the pirates have inside help from a member of the crew. (defpro)
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