In reaction to what appeared to be an attempted hijacking, a security team aboard United States Naval Vessel John Lenthall was forced to fire warning shots at two small boats that were pursuing the vessel off the coast of Somalia.
In a statement, the U.S Naval Forces Central Command said:
Despite defensive measures to deter the vessels from approaching John Lenthall, small boats continued to approach the ship. The rounds impacted the water approximately 20 meters from the closest boat and resulted in both small boats ending their pursuit. All shots were accounted for as they entered the water.
“This incident is clear proof that all mariners must remain vigilant,” said Captain Steve Kelley, the commander responsible for all Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships in the region.
“I am extremely pleased with the actions taken by the ship’s master and ultimately by the security personnel aboard. They initially used defensive measures and when those weren’t enough the security personnel took action to defend the ship.”
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.