A member of HMS MONMOUTH force protection team provides cover during the boarding of the merchant vessel MV CARAVOS HORIZON. Images by LA(Phot)Stuart Hill / MOD (Crown Copyright).
15 August 2011
Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 Commander, Captain James Gilmour, Royal New Zealand Navy, ordered HMS MONMOUTH, a Royal Navy Frigate under his Tactical Control, to respond to the distress call of a merchant vessel reportedly under attack by armed men in fast boats.
The Maltese-flagged, Greek-owned MV CARAVOS HORIZON, a 63,000 tonne bulk carrier, was transiting through the Southern Red Sea when it was boarded by six armed men. The Master of the MV CARAVOS HORIZON and his 23 Filipino crew members sought refuge in the vessel’s citadel (secure compartment). The Master also reported hearing shots fired.
UK warship MONMOUTH was patrolling 90 miles to the south, and was ordered by CAPT Gilmour to respond. MONMOUTH proceeded at high speed towards the merchant ship and launched her Lynx helicopter to assess the situation. MONMOUTH also liaised with a nearby US warship, USS BATAAN, which dispatched a MH-60S helicopter to assist and provide a wider area of surveillance.
At the same time, communications were established with the Master of MV CARAVOS HORIZON. Commander Mat Williams, RNZN, Chief of Staff for CTF 151, informed him how events were unfolding outside the citadel and reassured him that assistance was coming. CDR Williams’ also obtained further details about the suspected maritime crime.
"Talking to the Captain was a stark reminder of the human dimension of piracy and armed robbery in the region; he was scared, but very happy that help was on the way," said CDR Williams.
When MONMOUTH arrived on scene, she sent a team of Royal Marine Commandos, backed up by a Royal Navy Boarding Team, onto MV CARAVOS HORIZON, where they systematically worked their way through the vessel.
It was established that while the intruders had ransacked parts of the vessel and caused some minor damage, they were no longer onboard. The boarding team was able to free the crew from their refuge in the citadel and handed control of the vessel back to the Master.
CAPT Gilmour was pleased with the outcome of the incident. "My battle staff performed very well and MONMOUTH demonstrated the values and level of professionalism that we rightfully associate with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines."
"Although it ultimately transpired that the armed intruders had fled before MONMOUTH arrived on the scene, our robust response ensured the vessel was safe before the crew left the safety of the citadel.
"Responses like this assist in deterring piracy and armed robbery in the region and reassure the maritime community that we are upholding freedom of navigation in the region."
"I am sure that the owners and crew of the MV CAROVOS HORIZON will be relieved that a citadel was installed within their ship, further demonstrating the importance of adhering to best management practices."
In accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and in cooperation with non-member forces, CTF 151’s mission is to disrupt piracy and armed robbery at sea and to engage with regional and other partners to build capacity and improve relevant capabilities, in order to protect global maritime commerce and secure freedom of navigation.
CTF 151 is one of three task forces operating under the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a 25-nation coalition. CTF 151′s counter-piracy operations focus on the Gulf of Aden, Southern Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Somali basin, an area encompassing 2.5 million square miles.
Two NZ Defence Force staff officers support CAPT Gilmour in his role as Commander of CTF 151.
New Zealand is impacted by piracy, even far from our shores. This deployment demonstrates NZ Defence Force’s commitment to protecting security and stability in the international maritime environment.
For further information contact Kirsty Taylor-Doig, Defence Communications Group, 021 806 926.