The Royal Navy has been subject to heavy criticism in the past for not intervening actively against Somali piracy, but critique had to go against not the Service and its men, but against the politicians who did not authorize military intervention, or that did (and do) set ROEs that are often nothing short of demented.
And now, while the - largely unsung - infamous "notice to quit" is delivered by Italy to NATO personnel - mainly RAF - at Trapani Birgi airbase, the Special Boat Service does us a great service by freeing the merchant ship Montecristo, captured by pirates off Somalia.
The Montecristo was carrying 23 crew members - seven Italians, six Ukrainians and 10 Indians - when it was attacked on Monday.
The operation was carried out by two navy ships - one British and one American as part of Nato's Ocean Shield anti-piracy force. The 11 pirates on board were arrested after they surrendered, the ministry said.
Britain's Ministry of Defence confirmed that the Royal Navy "was involved in a compliant boarding" - in which the pirates indicated they would surrender and sailors boarded the vessel to take them into custody.
"The danger of piracy has increased," said Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, making one of his great finds. He's the most inadequate minister for defence in an history full of inadequate ministers, but i won't rant about it now.
According to the Italian press, La Russa talked directly to Liam Fox before the raid on the Montecristo was authorized and the troops were given the order to go in.
Pirates flourish off largely lawless Somalia by attacking passing ships, taking hostages and demanding ransoms to free them and the vessels.
The ship's owner, D'Alessio Group, said that the attack had occurred 620 miles off Somalia as the crew was hauling scrap iron to Vietnam on a journey that had begun on September 20 in Liverpool.
According to italian newspaper "Il Sole 24 Ore", the crew of the ship had been able to find refuge in the protected, sealed-up citadel of the ship during the assault, thus preventing the pirates from taking any hostage: by far the best situation for launching a military intervention on board, with minimal risks.
Currently, Task Force TF 508, fighting piracy off Somalia, is lead by Italian admiral Gualtiero Mattesi, on board of the 'Andrea Doria' destroyer (Horizon class, the ship born from the once tri-national programme that the UK abandoned for a national solution evolving into the Type 45), and the task force comprises a couple of US warships, 'USS Carny' and 'USS Devert', and a portuguese frigate, the 'Francisco de Almeida' as well.
However, only RFA Fort Victoria, which only recently made route for "East of Suez" ops, after supporting the naval segment of Operation Ellamy in Libya by resupplying HMS Ocean and HMS Liverpool, had on board a ready team of Special Forces, deemed the adequate solution for the raid.
According to the "Sole 24 Ore", SBS men from RFA Fort Victoria raided the Montecristo. The pirates surrendered, and the crew of the ship was released, without suffering a scratch.
Well done lads, as always.
Makes it even more embarrassing that Italy at the same time is causing trouble regarding airbases and Libya ops...