Four suspected pirates killed in a gunfight involving Danish frigate

Danish frigate HDMS Esben Snare has been involved in an incident involving suspected pirates on 24 November in the Gulf of Guinea, one of the world’s most dangerous waters.

Danish frigate Esbern Snare which is operating in the Gulf of Guinea to improve maritime security. Photo: Anders Fridberg/Danish Armed Forces

According to the Danish Armed Forces, the crew of the frigate HDMS Esbern Snare responded to reports of an increased risk of piracy in the waters south of Nigeria. The ship set in that direction and sent the ship’s Seahawk helicopter in advance to observe.

The crew of the helicopter found in the afternoon in an area with a number of merchant ships a fast-moving motorboat with eight suspicious men on board. On board the ship, the helicopter crew could see a number of the tools associated with piracy, including ladders, according to the officials.

During the evening, HDMS Esbern Snare was close enough to send the Frogman Corps off in their fast-moving RHIB boats to board the pirate ship. The crew called the pirates to bring them to a halt so that the Danish soldiers could get on board. When the pirates did not react, the Danish forces fired warning shots; however, pirates then opened fire directly on the Danish soldiers.

“The Danish soldiers then reacted in self-defense and responded to the fire from the pirates. After the firefight, the pirate ship sank. The eight pirates were taken aboard the frigate Esbern Snare, where one wounded man was treated for his injuries,” the officials revealed.

The Danish frigate left Denmark for Gulf of Guinea at the end of October 2021. The aim is that the visible presence of the Esben Snare in the area will be a deterrent for pirates, but Danish authorities have announced that the frigate will also try to actively locate pirates and intervene where possible if pirate attacks occur.

HDMS Esbern Snare (F342) is an Absalon-class frigate and is, along with its sister ship, the HDMS Absalon, amongst the largest combat vessels currently commissioned in the Royal Danish Navy. The ship is designed for command, support and anti-submarine roles, with a large ro-ro deck, and is complemented by the Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates.

Denmark is not the only country to react to the problem of piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. In November 2020 an Italian warship disrupted a pirate attack on a tanker, and in October 2021 a Russian warship chased off a pirate group attacking a container ship. Other countries support the efforts through capacity building and joint patrols with regional navies. In mid-October, the UK announced that it would deploy a naval vessel plus a contingent of Royal Marines to the Gulf of Guinea to help in the battle against piracy.

The Gulf of Guinea continues to be particularly dangerous for seafarers with 32% of all reported incidents of piracy in the first half of 2021 taking place in the region, according to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau.

International shipping association BIMCO has welcomed the move of the Danish Armed Forces, calling for international support to fight piracy in this area.

“We hope this incident will have a deterrent effect on pirate groups considering attacking shipping in the Gulf of Guinea. For too long Niger Delta based pirate groups have been allowed to operate almost unhindered in the world’s number one piracy hotspot: The Eastern Gulf of Guinea. We continue to call for all naval forces in the area to further increase the pressure against the pirate groups and act with determination and in accordance with international law,” said BIMCO’s Head of Maritime Safety and Security, Jakob Larsen.