Best Defense

Piracy Watch: Absalon, Absalon!

People tend to neglect the contributions of smaller nations like Denmark. Here is a good reminder from our Bono of the buccaneer beat: By Cdr. Herb Carmen, USN Best Defense pirates columnist When father of the American Navy John Paul Jones famously wrote in a letter to Le Ray de Chaumont on November 16,  1778, ...

HENNING BAGGER/AFP/Getty Images
HENNING BAGGER/AFP/Getty Images

People tend to neglect the contributions of smaller nations like Denmark. Here is a good reminder from our Bono of the buccaneer beat:

By Cdr. Herb Carmen, USN
Best Defense
pirates columnist

When father of the American Navy John Paul Jones famously wrote in a letter to Le Ray de Chaumont on November 16,  1778, "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way," he was expressing his disappointment in the inadequate English prize offered to him by the French. He had hoped that friends connected with the French monarch in Versailles would help him get the right ship to meet his needs. After five months of waiting, he came across a copy of Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac:

"As Jones listlessly turned its pages, his eye fell upon the maxim, ‘If you wish to have any business done faithfully and expeditiously, go and do it yourself. Otherwise, send someone.’

"Shutting the book, and dashing it to the floor, Jones sprang to his feet exclaiming, ‘I will go to Versailles this very day.’ Before night he set out, and soon reached the royal court. His reputation easily gained him an interview; and his frank, self-reliant way so impressed the monarch, that in five days the American was tendered the command of the ship ‘Daras,’ mounting forty guns.

"Great was the exultation of the American seaman at this happy termination of his labor. Full of gratitude to the distinguished philosopher whose advice had proved so effective, he wrote to the minister of marine, begging permission to change the name of the vessel to the ‘Poor Richard,’ or, translated into French, the ‘Bon Homme Richard.’ Permission was readily granted; and thereafter the ‘Bon Homme Richard,’ with Paul Jones on the quarter-deck, did valiant work for the cause of the young American Republic."

(The Naval History of the United States by Willis John Abbot, 1886, pages 82-83)

The Danish support ship HDMS Absalon is a very effective multi-mission ship that fits the maritime missions we have seen in recent months, most notably off the coasts of Somalia and Haiti. HDMS Absalon can be equipped for naval warfare, land attack, strategic sealift missions or used as a command and control platform. She can also be configured as a hospital ship or used for emergency disaster relief. She is equipped with a roll-on roll-off ramp installed at the stern for access to the "flex deck" which can support a Leopard II tank. While her maximum sustained speed is a modest 23 knots, HDMS Absalon can carry stores and fuel for 28 days of endurance. 

The right ship matters, but what is primary in naval warfare is the fighting spirit of her crew. Commodore Christian Rune and the crew of Absalon have certainly shown superb fighting spirit in 2010. Commodore Rune flies his flag in Absalon and leads the NATO’s counter-piracy mission off the east coast of Somalia.  On February 5th, HDMS Absalon came to the rescue of the Slovenian cargo ship MV Ariella after she was attacked by pirates. MV Ariella’s crew was following best practices and had safely locked themselves away while calling for help. A team from Absalon boarded the Ariella and regained control of it while sailors from the Russian Navy ship Neustrashimyy successfully boarded and detained a second pirate skiff. 

After the operation Commodore Rune commented, "NATO is making a significant contribution in the fight against piracy, but we recognize that there is still a lot of work to do." And more work they did. Last Sunday, a boarding team from HDMS Absalon intercepted a pirate mothership. The pirates were transferred to a smaller boat in tow and allowed to return to shore. HDMS Absalon then fired upon the pirate mothership and sunk it. Since NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield began, there has been a 50% drop in piracy incidents in the Gulf of Aden.

The Danes are showing that they sent the right ship and the right crew for the counter-piracy mission near Somalia. Bravo Zulu to Commodore Rune and the crew of the HDMS Absalon!

Tom again: I just wanna add that "Christian Rune" is a rich name for a Scandanavian sea captain.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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