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If the responses are hesitant, if it can take considerably longer. boarding offi cer and the skipper;
fi shing vessel X doesn’t have its And then there’s the human factor two men bringing up the rear facing ● Kent’s Lynx ‘Charger’ returns from a recce mission in search of suspicious
nets out or its gear looks rusty, or to consider. backwards. vessels
if the task force HQ wants the craft “The fi rst person up the ladder is Luna’s cargo comprises some
searched anyway... boarding party to the most vulnerable,” Kent’s XO Lt Cdr goods declared – machinery parts –
red alert. Mike Smith points out. “If something and some not – 200 bales of cotton, 50
At present, the boarding team is going to happen, then it is going to chickens (not a typical combination)
comprises solely of volunteers from happen to him – someone pushing him and a few parcels of narcotics.
the ship’s company: chefs, stokers, over, breaking the ladder as he climbs “As a boarding team this is
sonar operators. When the operation up.” something we want to do,” says
begins in earnest, a specialist Royal Providing that doesn’t happen, he’s POET(ME) David ‘Dickie’ Henderson
Marines team joins. quickly followed up the ladder by two who co-ordinates a search once on
The sailors can only carry more shipmates, including PO ‘Fozzy’ board a suspect vessel.
out ‘compliant’ boardings (the Forrest, second in charge of the “I think everyone has had enough of
merchantman is happy to have you operation. the receptions and visits and wants to
aboard). ‘Non compliant’ boardings “I’m expendable,” the senior rate get stuck into operations.”
(the merchantman doesn’t want jokes. Perhaps. Dependable, certainly. The senior rate continues: “People
you aboard) must be led by the Expendable, defi nitely not. back home hear talk about ‘pirates,
commandos. ‘Opposed’ boardings Accompanied by two guards, Fozzy pirates, pirates’ and want us to do
(the merchantman will use lethal force makes his way to the bridge to secure something about it, but they don’t
to stop you) demand an even stronger it – ensuring the vessel sticks to her really know what that means.
response. course and her crew make no surprise “The pirates have become bolder
The MV Luna wants to be on her moves. – they see there is
way, but her captain reluctantly agrees When Fozzy “Pirates have become money in this. They
to allow HMS Kent’s search team on is happy
board. he radios
bolder. They are well-
are well-equipped,
well-armed, they
The frigate puts her two Pacifi c 24 Stallion that
equipped and well-armed.”
know what to
sea boats, Pegasus and Stallion (in it’s safe for
keeping with the horsey theme of the the boarding
– PO Dickie Henderson
look for – their
intelligence is
ship’s badge), into the water before offi cer, the very good.”
the boarding parties scramble down very last man in the party, to come LS Mark ‘Bunny’ Warren, normally
the rope ladders and jump into the aboard. a sonar specialist in the ops room,
craft. Lt Stu Willsmore carries no rifl e – a accepts the risks involved in the
Mounted on the front of each boat sign both that he is an offi cer and that searches.
is a general purpose machine-gun – its he is not a threatening presence. “We’re all volunteers, we know the
presence is proof that Kent is now in a He makes a bee-line for the skipper, dangers,” he says. “Doing boardings
more threatening environment. shakes his hand fi rmly, and begins the is less mundane, there’s a bit of
On the upper deck, sailors in search of the Luna in earnest. excitement, an adrenaline rush. If you
helmets and fl ak jackets man the “I would compare my manner to stop things falling into the hands of
machine-guns and the mini gun. The that of a nightclub bouncer – fi rm but the wrong people, even better.”
weapons are loaded, as ample yellow polite,” Lt Willsmore explains. And although it’s the boarding party
signs – warning, gun loaded – attest. “You go aboard expecting the worst, directly in the line of fi re, ensuring
The guns are trained on the suspicious but you can quickly relax when you they get across to the Luna and
craft throughout the search. realise it is not. I would like to think our get back safely demands the entire
Overhead, the ship’s Lynx helicopter attitude in the RN is very human.” ship’s company: force protection
hovers in front of the dhow. The lieutenant carries a series teams on the upper deck, the fl ight
“The Luna’s being compliant at the of language cards (complete with deck team, RIB parties to launch and
moment,” offi cer of the watch Lt Giles handy pronunciation hints) with the recover Stallion and Pegasus, standby
Graddon reminds his bridge team. key questions to ask in a multitude of boarding team waiting to relieve their
“She can turn on us at any moment.” tongues. shipmates if they become exhausted,
Pegasus circles the Luna to inspect He doesn’t, however, have an comms personnel on the bridge
her from a safe distance, before the interpreter. maintaining constant contact with the
order is given to begin boarding. “We’re not going to be able boarders, the emergency party still
The RIB races up to the wooden to understand 90 per cent of the ready in Kent’s bowels to deal with
ladder thrown down by the merchant responses,” says Lt Willsmore. “But any fi re or fl ood.
ship. The fi rst boarder jumps across you can get the meaning from gestures And offi cers or ratings, they’re a
and scrambles up it, greeting the and expressions.” pretty young lot.
skipper at the top. And if the cards don’t work, there’s “There’s a young bunch on board –
And at this moment, he is on the universal language: the beautiful a lot of very young junior rates,” says
his own. For while he hurries game. Cdr Hopper.
up the ladder, the sea boat “I’ve always found that chatting “If you judge them by their age, then
breaks away briefl y before about football works wherever you you decry their ability. Don’t look at
making another pass to are,” says PO(UW) Andrew Cousins. their youth, look at what they can do.
offl oad the next boarding “Talk about Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, “It’s those youngest men and
team member. it breaks the ice.” women that I ask to man the guns, to
In benign conditions, You cannot, of course, talk football make judgement calls. They know the
it can take a minute all day. You have to carry out difference between right and wrong,
to put another man that search of the vessel. and they know that what these pirates
on the ladder; with Half the boarding do is wrong. We trust them to make
less favourable party begin to move the right decision.”
weather around Luna’s upper The hour has come for those
and deck. Three men judgement calls.
sea, edge forward, a
shield for the
● LS ‘Bunny’ Warren (centre) and Logs Wilcox (left) and Dawson make their way
through MV Luna during their search
0010-011_NN_Jan.indd 210-011_NN_Jan.indd 2 99/12/08 14:14:37/12/08 14:14:37
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