Italian frigate completes counter-piracy tour of duty

The Italian Frigate ITS Libeccio is heading home after completing a four month deployment with the EU Naval Force off the coast of Somalia.

The warship’s 240 crewmembers left their home port of La Spezia last August and began their mission with an intense period of training, first in Taranto, Italy and then in Souda, Greece. Libeccio arrived in Djibouti on October 6 and shortly after commenced counter piracy patrols.

Libeccio and her crew patrolled the Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin and the Arabian Sea, logging more than 20 000 nautical miles. Her boarding team performed over 50 friendly approaches to local vessels in order to gain a better understanding of their concerns and to ensure they understood the ongoing piracy threat.

Only days before ending her tour of duty off the east coast of Africa, Libeccio assisted a Yemini dhow adrift 100 nautical miles offshore.

While patrolling in the Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor (IRTC) to ensure safety to merchant vessels and local seafarers, the Italian frigate saw a dhow on the horizon moving at a low speed with what appeared to be a makeshift sail. Reducing distance to gather more information it became obvious the dhow was in an emergency situation.

Technical personnel of the Libeccio were invited on board the dhow to assist. Unfortunately technicians could only confirm its engine was beyond repair.

As the dhow was unable to sail home under its own steam and the with situation posing a potential danger to the life of the crew, the Commanding Officer of ITS Libeccio, Commander Stefano Calvetti, decided to tow the dhow towards the Yemeni coast.

The dhow, with the help of the Italian frigate’s seaboats, was pushed towards the ship and, after a thorough check of the sturdiness of the hull and the wellbeing of the crew the dhow’s crew was given a supply of food and fresh water and their boat positioned at the stern of the Italian ship and towed.

After a whole night spent at a minimum speed to avoid causing damage to the small boat, on the morning of February 1, in vicinity of Al Mukallah, Yemen, the Libeccio contacted the local Coast Guard who sent a patrol boat to recover the dhow and tow it and its crew safely home.

This incident prompted Calvetti to say his vessel responded ably to an emergency involving fellow seamen, again showing the compassion among sailors, regardless of nationality or culture.

Piracy has been a major concern in the Indian Ocean since 2005. At its peak in January 2011 over 736 innocent seafarers and 32 ships were being held for ransom off the Somali coast. Strenuous efforts by the International Community have seen pirate attacks drastically reduced. Today the number of seafarers being held for ransom stands at 50 and one ship, FV Naham 3 remains in pirate hands, the EU counter-piracy tasking off the east coast of Africa said.

The reduction in piracy can be attributed to the efforts of naval forces and the adoption of enhanced self-protection measures by the maritime industry.

Libeccio and her crew will return to her home port on February 26, having been away for more than six months.

Speaking about his warship’s deployment Calvetti said: “We have been away from home for some time but everyone on board is fully aware the work we have carried out has had a positive effect. Each one of my sailors has contributed to the free movement of trade and safety of seafarers at sea”.


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