A Danish Absalon class guided missile frigate deployed to the Gulf of Guinea towards the end of this year has engaged, and killed at least four pirates in the area during an anti-piracy mission.
The Absalon-class frigate HDMS Esbern Snare (F534) spotted the suspected pirate ship near several commercial ships on Wednesday, 24 November, says the Danish military.
HDMS Esbern Snare was responding to reports of pirate activity and heading to the scene while deploying it’s embarked Royal Danish Air Force MH-60R helicopter in advance to observe the area.
The MH-60R helicopter sighted a speedboat that afternoon with eight men on board in the vicinity of merchant ships in the area and observed that the boat was carrying a number of piracy-associated tools, including ladders.
By the evening, Esbern Snare launched a rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs) carrying Danish naval special forces personnel and called on the boat to halt and permit boarding, when the suspected pirate boat refused to respond to the call, warning shots were fired, with the pirates responding by firing directly at the personnel in the RHIBs.
A brief firefight then ensued, in which no Danish personnel were hit but five pirates were shot, with four of them killed and one wounded. The motorboat sank after the firefight and the surviving four pirates and the bodies of the dead pirates were taken aboard the frigate, where the wounded pirate was given medical treatment.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told a news conference that the soldiers’ intervention had “probably prevented concrete pirate attacks against vessels in the region” and that the ship had “made an important and significant contribution to security in the Gulf of Guinea.”
Denmark deployed the frigate to escort merchant ships and prevent pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea after an announcement in March, and stating that the Danish shipping industry to take action against pirate attacks in the region. An average of 40 Danish merchant ships sail through the area in a daily basis, the majority belonging to Copenhagen-based Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company.
Esbern Snare left Denmark from Naval Base Frederikshavn on October,. 24 and arrived in the region at the start of November to begin its mission, which will last until April 2022.
A total of 175 personnel are deployed on the mission, including military police, naval special forces and an expanded medical team. The frigate will carry out capacity-building activities with several African nations in the area.
The Absalon class frigates consists of the two frigates ‘F341 ABSALON’ and ‘F342 ESBERN SNARRE’. The vessel class have a length of 137m, draft of 6.45m, and the frigates can sail up to 25 knots. The frigates have a normal crew of approximately 120 personnel.
Piracy in the area has been a major concern, this latest incident highlights the still present threat of armed pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, albeit rapidly diminishing largely due to the active counter-piracy campaign of the Nigerian Navy, NIMASA, and other allied forces in the Gulf of Guinea region.
From Jan to 26 May 2021, there were only 8 pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, while only 5 were within Nigeria waters.
But despite this, there are still more pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea than anywhere else in the world, about 40 percent of all reported pirate attacks worldwide take place. In 2020 alone, at least 140 people were kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea.
The United Kingdom offshore patrol vessel HMS Trent (P224) arrived in the region in early October for a three-month deployment, while France led the multilateral maritime security exercise Grand African Nemo 2021 from Nov. 2 through 7 in the Gulf of Guinea, which included 19 regional and ten international nations participating. USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB-4) also operated in the region from August through September for counter-piracy and capacity-building operations.
A Russian Navy guided-missile Udaloy-class destroyer carried out a counter-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Guinea in November, while the Italian Navy committed two high-end Carlo Bergamini-class frigates (which are variants of the FREMM multipurpose frigate) to engage piracy in the Gulf of Guinea in September.