Follow the French: To Handle Somali Pirates

by OldSailor on April 14, 2008


france pirates le_ponant_1

Friday, April 04: 88 metre long, tri masted luxury yacht Le Ponant was on her way from Seychelles to Mediterranean. When the yacht was between Somalia and Yemen in the Gulf of Aden, the yacht was boarded by Somali fisherman turned pirates. The yacht had no passengers and thirty crew members were taken as hostages. The pirates who have close links with clans and local militias thought that every thing would go well like previous incidents after receiving ransom. Despite warnings from pirates, skipper Patrick Marchesseau managed to contact authorities without the pirates’ knowledge.

Saturday, April 05: Pirates with captured Le Ponant and 30 crew members proceeded to coastal area of Eyl in Puntland, northeast Somalia. French Navy Helicopter Cruiser Jeanne d’Arc and frigate Jean Bart started closely monitoring the movement of Le Ponant. France started preparing for the rescue operations. France has its largest foreign military base in nearby Djibouti.

Sunday, April 06: French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner announced that contact with pirates had been established. Le Ponant drops anchor south of Puntland.

Monday, April 07: Elite French commando team, including helicopters were sent to Djibouti to commence rescue operations.

Tuesday, April 08: French President Nicolas Sarkozy met families of French hostages at Elysée Palace and assured them that all possible efforts are going on to release the ships crew.

Friday, April 11: The yacht owner paid $2m (£1m; 1.3m euros) ransom to the pirates. The pirates released the 30 member ships crew safely.

  • once it was known that ships crew were released safely, the french commandos in helicopters followed the pirates.
  • in a daring operation the commandos intervene the vehicle in which the pirates were travelling and stopped the vehicle. In a minor exchange of fire, the commandos captured six pirates and part of the ransom paid to the pirates.
  • the operation was carried out with minimal use of force.
  • the pirates are going to be tried in France for the offence committed by them.

Here are some photographs of rescue operation

French luxury yacht Le Ponant and French Frigate jean Bart during the rescue operation.


The rescued crew members climbing aboard the French Navy ship Jean Bart after release.


French Navy Helicopter Cruiser Jeanne d’Arc from which commandos carried out raids on pirates.


Photographs of Le Ponant are available here and Facts & Deck plan are available here.

Click here to view more rescue photos.

View BBC video news coverage of the rescue here and here. From France some clips are here and here.

Update: April 15

The rescued ships crew arrived at Paris-Orly airport on Monday, April 14th evening. They were greeted by the French President on arrival. Click here for more details.

Update: April 16

IMO Secretary-General, Efthimios E. Mitropoulos endorses French anti piracy proposals. More details here at marinelog.

Captured pirates arrive Paris to face trials. Read more from france24.

Update: October 25

In their continuing fight against piracy, the French Navy has handed over nine suspected pirates to Somali authorities, four days after capturing them at sea and after destroying their boats. Read more from France24.

Also an interesting video clip showing the handing over of the pirates to Somali authorities is here.

Update: January 04, 2009

The Premier Maitre L’Her, a French frigate patrolling the waters as part of a European Union task force, intercepted the pirates on January 01, after twice responding to a distress call from the Panamanian-flagged S. Venus.  Eight pirates were captured and handed over to Somali authorities for legal action. Read more from Terra Daily.

Update: January 28

French Frigate Le Floreal, on January 27 captured nine Somali pirates while responding to a distress call from the cargo vessel African Ruby. Read more from Press TV.

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