New Zealand’s vital link in catching pirates

Published on LEUT Andrew Ragless (author)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Melbourne (F05), Counter-piracy

On attachment from the Royal New Zealand Navy (from left) Able Seaman Combat Specialist Levi Eaton, Leading Seaman Hydrographic Technician Sam Martin and Able Seaman Combat Specialist Samantha Carter. (photo: ABIS Jayson Tufrey)
On attachment from the Royal New Zealand Navy (from left) Able Seaman Combat Specialist Levi Eaton, Leading Seaman Hydrographic Technician Sam Martin and Able Seaman Combat Specialist Samantha Carter.

In a true display of ANZAC spirit, three Royal New Zealand Navy sailors on board HMAS Melbourne, have been instrumental in an operation involving the interception of nine suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia.

The three sailors played a vital role manning Melbourne’s Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIB); intercepting the skiffs and inserting an armed boarding party.

Leading Seaman Samuel Martin from Rotorua, Able Seaman Samantha Carter from Taupo and Able Seaman Leevi Eaton from Tauranga took part in the boarding on 15 October 2013, after the headquarters for Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) in Bahrain received reports of attempted acts of piracy against two separate merchant vessels.

Under the direction of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, HMAS Melbourne was appointed as on-scene commander for a multi-national search operation, involving ships and aircraft from the CMF and European Union Naval Forces.

HMAS Melbourne successfully located the suspected pirate vessels and launched two jet powered RHIBs to make the final approach. Leading Seaman Martin took charge as boat coxswain in one RHIB with Able Seaman Carter as bowman, and Australian sailor, Leading Seaman Boatswain’s Mate Liam Sweeten drove the other with Able Seaman Eaton as bowman.

Leading Seaman Sweeten said the Kiwi trio performed flawlessly.

“We initially embarked the suspected pirates to HMAS Melbourne and later transferred them back to the Somali Coast,” he said.

HMAS Melbourne's seaboat stands off in preparation for the mission to return Somali Nationals to their home country.

HMAS Melbourne's seaboat stands off in preparation for the mission to return Somali Nationals to their home country.

“Approaching the Somali Coast, Marto (Leading Seaman Martin) was in front of my RHIB and he did a great job providing directions when a large swell formed.

“All three followed the plan and executed it well, and the achievement was celebrated throughout the whole ship, especially by us because we had been right in the middle of it”.

Able Seaman Carter said the experience was one she won’t soon forget.

“It is definitely something to tell family and friends back home and make everybody jealous.

“The best part was being involved in an operation that’s actually happening, not just something we hear about or something we train for, but something happening in real time,” she said.

Commanding Officer of HMAS Melbourne, Commander Brian Schlegel said the New Zealand sailors are a valued part of the Ship’s Company.

“They have been with us since the start of pre-deployment work ups and in that time they have integrated to become part of a professional and effective team”, he said.

Guided missile frigate HMAS Melbourne is the 56th Australian warship assigned to maritime security operations in the Middle East since the 1991 Gulf War and the 32nd rotation since 2001. The warship is employed by the Combined Maritime Forces under the Tactical Control of CTF151 who is responsible for counter piracy operations within the Middle East Area of Operations.

Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20132054.