Maritime Forces Responded to MV Tateyama’s Distress Call
Combined Maritime Forces responded to a Thai-flagged VLCC’s distress signal when two skiffs began advancing on the vessel in a suspicious manner.
On Friday 28 February, at 12:18pm, lookouts on board the Thailand flagged merchant cargo ship, MV Tateyama, saw two small motor-powered skiffs carrying several men behaving oddly around a mile away. Suddenly accelerating, the skiffs changed direction and headed straight towards the ship.
The lookouts suspicions were aroused. Knowing that their current position, 60 nautical miles off the coast of Oman near to the Strait of Hormuz, is a piracy hotspot, the crew wondered if the high-speed manoeuvres meant these were pirates, preparing to make an attack.
Sensing the ship’s vulnerability due to not having a protective armed security team embarked, the Master broadcast a distress message to other nearby vessels and the Omani Coastguard requesting immediate assistance.
This set in motion a coordinated response between naval ships and aircraft from several nations which ultimately ascertained that the piracy alarm was not an attack. Yet the firm actions reassured the tanker and reaffirmed the message to would-be pirates that any attempts at illegal activity would receive a swift reaction from international naval forces.
As the skiffs continued to close the distance between themselves and the merchant ship, Tateyama’s Master remained concerned they were possibly trying to intercept the tanker.
He put his crew’s counter-piracy training into practice by initiating a whole-ship lock-down, increasing vessel speed to maximum, starting fire pumps and overflowing the ballast tanks to make any potential boarding as difficult as possible. Tateyama’s 27 crew were mustered and accounted for and waited for the response from local maritime authorities.
Combined Maritime Forces, March 6, 2014