Off the perilous shore of Somalia, the Spanish frigate Méndez Núñez’ (F-104) boarded the Indian registered merchant ship ‘Al-Hasan’, which is believed to have been involved piracy. Merchant ships, pleasure craft and other vessels have been subjected to repeated attacks by Somali pirates operating out of lawless Somalia. The navies of NATO countries, China and India have responded to the threat while cruise ships, for example, have increased their security by adding units of marine infantry.
The Al-Hasan was allegedly connected with the attacks against the merchant ships ‘Agristi’ and ‘Torm Kristina’ in the Gulf of Oman on December 15 of 2012. Since then, the suspected pirate vessels had been tracked by NATO forces, and was even boarded once, but without finding any conclusive evidence.
U.S. Navy frigate ‘Nicholas’ set sail on February 26 in pursuit of the 'Al-Hasan' after the Indian vessel departed from the north Somali port of Bossasso. The 'Méndez Núñez’ took night duty of tracking the ‘Al-Hasan’. The vessel was boarded at dawn two days later.
The Spanish Navy was able to gather a considerable amount of useful intelligence. The skipper of the 'Al-Hasan' acknowledged that his ship had been hijacked by seven pirates after departing from Bossasso and forced him to go towards the Gulf of Oman.
In those waters the oilers ‘Agristi’ and ‘Torm Kristina’ were attacked by the pirates, who were repulsed. The pirates subsequently abandoned the ‘Al-Hasan’. The ship proceeded then to her next port of call: Kuwait.
Since last December, the frigate ‘Méndez Núñez’ has been deployed in the Indian Ocean as part of the EU operation called 'Atalanta' to stem piracy in the area.
The Spanish vessel is simultaneously the command ship of the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR). It is the fourth time Spain has taken command of the operation since its activation in 2008.
Spain's naval force is one of the oldest in the world and was once the envy of her enemies. When Spain's economy and military prowess declined by the 1890s, it was easily defeated by the United States in the Spanish-American War of 1898. Subsequently, Spain's navy was mostly engaged in coastal operations to protect its fishing and merchant fleet. Since joining with NATO in the 1950s, Spain became an integral partner of the United States. Since the 1990s, and the first war in Iraq, Spain has deployed into deep waters by assisting with NATO efforts in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.