On April 22nd, the EU NAVFOR French warship FS GUÃ‰PRATTE was tasked to patrol the East coast of Somalia as part of her counter-piracy duties on Operation ATALANTA.
During this patrol her helicopter spotted a boat heading east. The photographs revealed the vessel to be a fishing dhow that had been pirated over a year ago and which was suspected of being used as a mother ship for Pirate Action Groups (PAG).
The vessel was carrying a fast attack skiff (used to attack merchant vessels) on her deck and was seen to have Rocket Propelled Grenades and small arms on board. She was suspected of carrying out a number of attacks on merchant vessels and had been used to resupply other pirate vessels in recent months.
FS GUÃ‰PRATTE tracked the dhow from a few miles away and monitored her activity until the next morning. At dawn on 23rd April, the French warship and her helicopter closed with the suspect vessel in attempt to stop her escaping to sea and posing a real threat to merchant vessels in the area. The dhow immediately altered its course and fled westwards back towards Somalia. The frigate ordered it to stop immediately, but the vessel continued to make way towards the Somali coast.
Warning shots were fired in attempt to stop the dhow but she continued on her way. After a conversation between the suspected pirates and a Somali-speaking crewmember on the FS GUEPRATTE, the pirates abandoned the attack skiff with its powerful outboard motor and fled back to Somalia. Fears for the wellbeing of the hostages on board the suspected pirate vessel prevented the warship from conducting any further action against the dhow.
With the PAG now disrupted, FS GUÃ‰PRATTE monitored the dhow as she returned to Somalia to prevent her from changing course.