USNS JOHN LENTHALL, Off The Coast Of Somalia â€“ An embarked security team aboard the United States Naval Ship John Lenthall fired warning shots in the vicinity of two small boats, Sept. 23, 2008. There were no reports of casualties.
Despite defensive measures to deter the vessels from approaching John Lenthall, small boats continued to approach the ship. The rounds impacted the water approximately 50 yards from the closest boat and resulted in both small boats ending their pursuit. All shots were accounted for as they entered the water.
â€œThis incident is clear proof that all mariners must remain vigilant,â€ said Captain Steve Kelley, the commander responsible for all Military Sealift Command ships in the region. â€œI am extremely pleased with the actions taken by the shipâ€™s master and ultimately by the security personnel aboard. They initially used defensive measures and when those werenâ€™t enough the security personnel took action to defend the ship.â€
While it is unclear if personnel on the boats were intent on attacking the 41,000-ton ship, it is clear they were not following the international rules of the road observed by mariners around the globe. More importantly, the location of the incident, the types of boats involved (small open skiffs), and the maneuvering they undertook was consistent with reports from previous attacks on merchant vessels in the region.
Lenthall is one of 14 fleet replenishment oilers operated by MSC and provides underway replenishment of fuel to U.S. Navy ships at sea and jet fuel for aircraft assigned to aircraft carriers. The ship is deployed to the region providing fuel to U.S. Navy and coalition warships. The oiler is 677.5 feet (206.5 meters) long, and is 97.5 feet (29.7 meters) wide.
The incident did not take place in the Maritime Security Patrol Area in the Gulf of Aden, an area utilized by the Combined Maritime Forces to focus their efforts against de-stabilizing activities. Coalition forces patrol the MSPA on the seas and in the skies above on a routine basis.
MSC operates approximately 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners. The incident is under investigation.
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