A Portuguese frigate foiled a pirate attack on a container vessel in the Gulf of Aden on Monday and captured eight pirates after firing shots at their boat, the armed forces command in Lisbon said.
The eight were freed after consultation with the Portuguese government, in line with the procedure for warships serving under NATO command, but their weapons were confiscated, a military statement said.
The Corte Real, operating with NATO forces in the region, was escorting a Pakistani merchant ship, the Bolan, when it received a distress call from the Singapore-flagged Maersk Phoenix, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported.
A Lusa correspondent on the Corte Real said the frigate sped to rescue the container ship, which was some four nautical miles away, and opened fire at a pirate boat.
Several shots were fired across the boat’s bows before the pirates surrendered, the report added. A boarding party of Portuguese marines confiscated four assault rifles, a grenade-launcher, grenades and explosives.
A Turkish warship, the Gaziantep, also went to the scene and took over the escort of the Bolan and Maersk Phoenix, Lusa said.
The world’s naval powers have deployed dozens of warships to the lawless waters off Somalia over the past year to curb attacks by pirates threatening one of the world’s busiest maritime trade routes.
At the last count 14 ships were still being held for ranson by Somali pirates, together with more than 200 seamen.