The crew of Devonport-based Royal Navy frigate HMS Northumberland completed one of their first tasks of Operation Atalanta
The crew of Devonport-based Royal Navy frigate HMS Northumberland completed one of their first tasks of Operation Atalanta, the European Union"s first military expedition of naval forces. After four days of escorting the MV Semlow through waters renowned for pirate activity, the ship was safely delivered to the port of Mogadishu to allow the distribution of desperately needed food in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster in the country.
HMS Northumberland left the port of Mombasa last Sunday and joined MV Semlow to escort her 500 nautical miles, providing protection through an area known for piracy, to ensure the vital food on the World Food Programme ship reached its destination. Travelling at little over six knots for most of its journey, it is easy to see why these ships are an attractive target to pirates. The MV Semlow finally entered Mogadishu port in the early hours of this morning with HMS Northumberland and her detachment of Royal Marines in close support. With Somalia in a continuous state of civil war for almost 20 years, HMS Northumberland closed the final miles towards Mogadishu at action stations with her weapons fully manned in case of surprise attacks on either ship by hostile forces from the areas outside of Mogadishu.
HMS Northumberland is actively involved in dealing with piracy
The ship"s Commanding Officer, Commander Martin Simpson, said: ?The ship"s company and myself are proud to have carried out a mission that will have a tangible benefit to the people of Somalia. The food that the MV Semlow carries is vital and its safe delivery was of the utmost importance. Dealing with piracy, or indeed any hostile action, is something that HMS Northumberland has been actively involved in for some months, and the ship"s company were ready for any eventuality. There can be no better or more worthwhile task than supporting the safe and timely delivery of food aid to this war-torn and neglected country".
The ship recently finished another mission as part of Operation Calash, the coalition task group which has a wider mission objective of disrupting all forms of illegal activity in the area including human trafficking and drug smuggling.
HMS Northumberland has been away from the UK for almost 3 months now and will not return for at least a further 3 months. The ship has previously been operating in the area as part of Combined Task Force 150, a group of coalition warships whose aim is to ensure lawful maritime order in and around this region.
Whilst the issue of piracy in the waters around Somalia is a major focus, the ship has also had an important role in deterring the smuggling of drugs, illegal weapons, and the brutal trade of human trafficking.
Mv SEMLOW has already encountered pirates. She was seized by pirates in 2005 whilst carrying aid intended for Somalia's tsunami victims. She and her crew were held captive for 100 days. The ships owners have had all four of their vessels captured by Somali pirates at some time.