Skull & Bones: Team Player


Categorie: Africa, Axe on Donald Cook, David Axe, Iran, Naval, Piracy |

A year after Somali piracy peaked with more than 100 ships attacked, the world’s navies have assembled dozens of warships to combat the threat. David Axe joins the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook in Djibouti, to observe firsthand this “global war on piracy.”



“Ship of interest off the port side,” the voice intoned over the ship’s PA system. It was near dusk on September 24th on the Gulf of Aden. The destroyer USS Donald Cook was zigzagging inside a patrol box assigned by NATO, trawling for Somali pirates.

I raced up four flights of stairs to the bridge, fingers crossed for an honest-to-God pirate or two to liven up my four-day embark on the 9,000-ton ship. But the vessel approaching on Donald Cook‘s port side was a medium-sized tanker, hull number 421, wearing the gray livery you usually see on military vessels. Plus, she had a blue-and-white-camouflaged Sea King helicopter on her flight deck. One country is famous for that style of camouflage. Iran.

The tanker wasn’t responding to hails from “DC,” as Donald Cook is known to her crew.

Ensign Roland Machado, a tall Cuban-American, was on watch. “There’s so many warships out here,” he breathed. He wasn’t kidding. Some 40 warships belonging to more than a dozen nations have assembled to deter pirates. They’re spread out from the Gulf of Aden all the way down to Mombasa, Kenya. Almost all the nations — the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, China and others — cooperate and share information. Just one country refuses to play ball. Iran has deployed several vessels to African waters, but refuses to be a team player. Iran is the only country not to participate in monthly coordination meetings in Bahrain.

“Usually it’s cordial,” Machado said of DC’s encounters with other warships, including Iran’s. “Sometimes it’s annoying.”

DC’s bridge crew pulled out a ship recognition guide, just to be sure of the tanker’s identity. Meanwhile, DC’s skipper, Captain Derek Granger, hustled in, wearing a t-shirt, shorts and combat boots and clutching a fresh cigar. He consulted with the crew. The Iranian tanker usually traveled with a frigate, Granger said — so where was the frigate? There were some objects on the radar, but it wasn’t clear what they were. These were crowded waters. “No military emissions. Com-nav only,” reported DC’s Combat Information Center. “I’m not surprised,” someone muttered. The Iranians aren’t famous for their rigorous adherence to standard military procedures.

Pirates or no, it was shaping up to be a strange night in Somali waters. Granger installed on the port bridge wing, lit his cigar and blasted Everclear on his iPod. “We can live beside the ocean, leave the fire behind,” the song warbled, “swim out past the breakers, watch the world die.”

(Photo: David Axe)

Skull & Bones: Beerless Days
Skull & Bones: Underway
Skull & Bones: Behind the Piracy Decline


3 Responses to “Skull & Bones: Team Player”

  1. gvg says:

    Iran is also fighting against pirates

    The crew of the frigate HNLMS Evertsen off the coast of Somalia also has contact with Iranian naval vessels. Minister Eimert van Middelkoop (Defence) said this on board the frigate during an interview RTL News aired on Sundat.

    Netherlands currently has command of the European mission Atalanta in the area. Iran is not part of it. “But Iran also has an economic interest here”, the minister said. When the Dutch meet their counterparts from Iran there is,”a form of reconciliation”, he said. ,, At sea, things are somehow easier than on land.”


    Source (in Dutch):

  2. [...] Today we have merchantmen defending themselves in the Gulf of Aden, faced as their are with modern outbreaks of piracy. While there are government warships available, the preference of traditional navies to build only high-end, highly capable warships means these are few and far between. With only 40 available from the combined fleets of Europe, Asia, and the Americas, these are required to patrol over 200,000 square miles of ocean off Somalia alone. Not surprisingly, a pirate attack is often over long before the stretched naval vessels arrive on the scene.   [...]

  3. [...] War Is Boring » Skull & Bones: Team Player comments: 0 » tags: axe, donald, dusk-on-september, gulf, over-the-ship, port, ship, [...]

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