Swedish King gets up-close look at anti-pirate mission.
King Carl XVI Gustaf paid a visit to the EUNAVFOR May 3-5 and praised the job the Royal Swedish Navy is doing off Somalia.
by Chipp Reid
King Carl XVI Gustaf got a first-hand look at how well the Royal Swedish Navy is executing its anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia when the monarch paid a visit May 3-5 to HMS Carlskrona.
The largest ship in the Swedish navy, HMS Carlskrona is the flagship of the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) patrolling the pirate-infested waters off the Horn of Africa. Swedish Rear Admiral Jan Thornqvist is the current commander of Operation Atalanta, the EU codename for the anti-piracy mission.
Reason for pride
“I think it’s important that Sweden is present in this area.” The monarch said. “That we have been entrusted to lead the other units in the EU force is something we should be proud of.”
The king, with a delegation from the Swedish Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya and Lt. Gen. Anders Lindström, director of operations of the Swedish armed forces, toured not only HMS Carlskrona but the EU-established Maritime Operations Center, a state-of-the-art facility that provides real-time intelligence on pirates to ships off the African coast. The Swedish monarch, who trained as a naval officer, witnessed the capture of pirates as well as a vessel hijacking during his time with the EUNAVFOR.
On May 4 while Carl XVI Gustaf was at the operations center, a call came in from a Japanese Navy helicopter about suspected pirates prowling for merchant ships off the coast of Yemen. Thörnqvist ordered the Greek frigate Elli to investigate and the EU vessel quickly spotted and engaged a skiff. The suspects at first attempted to flee, but several rounds from the main gun of the Greek warship convinced them to stop. However, before the Elli could put a boarding party on board the skiff, the suspects tossed their arms and equipment into the sea. The Greeks had no choice but to release the suspects.
Constant ups and downs
The next day while on board Carlskrona, the king witnessed the ups and downs of the EU mission. On the morning of May 5, pirates hijacked a Liberian-flagged, Russian-owned oil tanker, steering the vessel toward the lawless Somali coast. Russian commandos retook the vessel the next day, after the king had returned to Sweden.
Later in the day on May 5, a Swedish Coast Guard DHC-8 patrol aircraft operating out of the Seychelles spotted a pirate “mother ship” and several skiffs.
Pirate “mother ships” are large fishing boats or even hijacked vessels pirates use to operate far away from shore. These boats carry the smaller, high-speed skiffs pirates use to actually out their attacks.
The Swedish aircraft spotted the pirate boats in the Indian Ocean 400 miles west of the Seychelles. The Swedes radioed EUNAVFOR headquarters on board the Carlskrona and Thörnqvist dispatched the French frigate La Fayette to the scene. The French quickly captured the mother ship and one skiff and stopped a second skiff with several well-aimed sniper shots.
The French arrested 12 suspected pirates, sank the boats and confiscated a horde of equipment, the EUNAVFOR said in a statement.
The king took in the action with keen interest, saying it reminded him of his time on board naval vessels, albeit with several major differences.
This is under other circumstances with the tropical heat and other clothing and to me a different uniform and equipment that we didn’t have during my time on board naval ships,” the monarch said. “It has been a very exciting, interesting and instructive visit.”
Members of the Royal Swedish Navy have scored spectacular success in thwarting pirate attacks off Somalia. What happens when they capture the pirates, however, is less cut and dried.