The crew of the Ariella
had seen a skiff approaching their position in the Gulf of Aden early morning February 05 with six or seven armed men firing at them, said Cmdr. Dan B. Termansen, the commander of the Danish warship HDMS Absalon (L16)
. The Ariella
crew ran to the bridge, where the captain sent out a distress call and put the ship on full steam ahead,'
Despite the vessel's increased speed and the choppy waters, the pirates balanced a ladder in their tiny boat and crawled up the side of the ship, he said. The first pirate crept through barbed wire the crew had stretched across the ship's freeboard and fired a burst of automatic gunfire into the air. At that point, Termansen said, the ship's crew members locked themselves in a secure room. All are reported safe.
's distress call was heard by the Indian warship Tabar, which passed it on to a French plane. The plane confirmed the presence of the pirates on deck. The Kommandostøtteskib or Command and Support ship HDMS Absalon , sent a helicopter to investigate.
"We saw a small boat and fired some warning shots to make it stop," said Termansen.
It was impossible to say whether there were still pirates onboard, said Termansen. The hatches were open. The crew — who were in contact with the Danes by telephone — said they'd seen at least one armed man on deck and had been shot at by others in the skiff.
In the meantime, the Ariella was plowing at top speed through one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with a cargo of 30,000 tons of steel and no one at the wheel.
The helicopter couldn't see anyone on the bridge or on deck, and there was no response to two warning shots fired across the Ariella's bow, He didn't know if there were any pirates onboard or not, but he decided that the ship had to be stopped.
He dispatched a team from Denmark's elite Frogmen unit. They bounced across the waves in a dinghy and scaled the sides of the cargo ship using grappling hooks. They secured the bridge, released the crew and then launched an hours-long search for the pirate the crew had seen. They found no one.
Above the vehicle deck and LCP bay is an 850 square metre helicopter landing deck. This deck can accommodate 20-t helicopters (including Chinooks) but was sized specifically for two EH-101s (the KDM has 4 EH-101s on order for the Absalon class) as were the twin-bay hangars.
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