A group of Somali pirates was stopped in its tracks by an international operation led by a British commander, the Royal Navy has announced.
The pirates were caught by the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter piracy task force - Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 - in an operation involving ships from several nations, including Britain, after recent attacks on two vessels in the Indian Ocean.
The CMF is a multinational naval partnership of 29 nations, which promotes security, stability and prosperity across approximately 2.5 million square miles of international waters, encompassing some of the world's most important shipping lanes.
Its counter piracy task force's operation was coordinated by Royal Fleet Auxiliary replenishment ship RFA Fort Victoria, which traditionally provides crucial supplies for Royal Navy and coalition warships east of Suez, and supported by Australian ship HMAS Melbourne; South Korean destroyer ROKS Wang Geon; European Union flagship HMLMS Johan de Witt, and a Seychelles-based maritime patrol aircraft from Luxembourg.
The task force, whose commander is Royal Navy Commodore Jeremy Blunden, had been searching for the pirates since they attacked and exchanged gunfire with the supertanker Island Splendor on October 11.
Three days later a Spanish fishing vessel was also attacked by what was suspected to be the same pirates.
The pirate skiffs were quickly traced and HMAS Melbourne's Seahawk helicopter was used to guide the warship to their precise location, around 500 nautical miles from the Somali coast.
HMAS Melbourne's armed boarding team boarded and searched the boats, apprehending nine pirates and later destroying two skiffs and their piracy equipment.
Commodore Blunden, commander of CTF 151, said: "This is an excellent result. My multinational counter piracy forces swiftly located and dealt with this Somali pirate group, sending a clear message that piracy no longer pays."
But he said the maritime community should stay vigilant of the threat and follow "Best Maritime Practice" to reduce the likelihood of a pirate attack.
Royal Australian Navy Commander Brian Schlegel, commanding officer of HMAS Melbourne, added: "It is clear that there are still pirates out there determined to generate income from taking merchant ships hostage.
"Mariners have been served a timely reminder of the perils of transiting the Somali coastline."