LONDON — Nineteen crew members from a small Iranian cargo ship, SAAD 1 are now free from their pirate captors after being held for 5 months. Their release followed intervention by the Italian warship ITS Scirocco, one of five NATO warships operating in the region as part of NATO’s counter piracy mission, Operation Ocean Shield.
"The success of this operation demonstrates the professionalism and determination of the crew of Scirocco in combating piracy. SAAD 1 is now free and we have provided assistance to the crew to ensure their safe return home," said Cmdr. Massimiliano Giachino, commanding officer of ITS Scirocco,
Captured by Somali pirates five months ago, the vessel has been prepared to act as a mothership to attack merchant traffic transiting the busy international waters in the Indian Ocean.
SAAD 1, with its crew under the control of pirates, sailed from Garacad on March 14. ITS Scirocco, which had been tasked to monitor pirate camps along the coast, quickly took up the trail. On March 16, once the presence of pirates had been established, ITS Scirocco forced the SAAD1 to return to the coast where it could no longer pose a threat to legitimate seafarers.
Late on March 17, as soon as the dhow arrived at the coast, the pirates fled with the NATO ship still close by. Seizing the opportunity, SAAD 1 then rapidly escaped with ITS Scirocco providing protection as the pirates fled on shore.
Both ships then proceeded into safe water where the crew of ITS Scirocco rendered assistance to the help prepare the vessel and her crew for their journey home.
"This is excellent news. Scirocco’s actions today send a very strong message to the pirates that NATO and other counter piracy forces are willing to do what is necessary to stop piracy – even if it means tackling the pirates in the vicinity of the pirate camps," said Cmdr. Steve Chick, NATO Force Commander.