As reported yesterday, the Dutch warship HNLMS Tromp managed to effect a rescue of a ship and crew after a boarding by pirates.

Now, we get more details, including a look at how a warship captain should act when faced with a bureaucracy that might slow his rescue to a stop. As reported in The Associated Press: Dutch sidestep EU red tape to rescue German ship:

Gaining fast on the pirates who had seized a German freighter, Dutch naval captain Col. Hans Lodder had no time to waste on bureaucracy.

Sidestepping the command of the European Union’s anti-piracy task force, he went instead to his own government for authorization to recapture the ship by force.

Lodder first ascertained that the Taipan’s crew had locked itself in a bulletproof room. Then he launched his ship’s Lynx helicopter with a team of six special forces marines.

With troops providing cover fire from the helicopter, the marines rappelled onto the ship’s deck of the MV Taipan to shoot it out, if need be, with the pirates. But they met no resistance. The 15-man crew was rescued, and 10 Somali pirates were captured.

“The pirates surrendered the moment they saw the marines,” Lodder said in a telephone interview Tuesday from the Dutch frigate Tromp. No one was injured.

Monday’s successful rescue showed that, when swift decisions are needed, it can be quicker to work around the European Union’s command.

It was the first time a Dutch ship involved in the EU mission had used force to recapture a hijacked ship. An EU spokesman could not immediately recall any incident when troops under EU command had boarded a seized ship under the threat of fire.

Lodder said he decided to seek permission from his own command for an “opposed boarding” — one where pirates may resist — rather than act under procedures laid down by Brussels.

Well done, Captain Lodder! Your bold, decisive actions are in the best traditions of the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Photo of Captain Lodder and an explanation of the broom from here.
UPDATE: Photo of Dutch Marines fast roping onto merchant from Dutch Defense/Navy site.

Posted by Mark Tempest in Maritime Security

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  • Phrogs Phorever

    “Failure to dare is often to run the greatest risk.” – CAPT A.T. Mahan, McClure’s Magazine, 1899.

    It is a senitment that I fear our great USN has lost. Do we leave it to the Dutch and the French to combat piracy? It is the only mission specifically enumerated in the Constitution of the United States of America?

  • YNSN

    Awesome. BZ to the TROMP. They set a fine example for us all.

  • Actually, there are several U.S. Navy ships out there and doing good anti-pirate things. See here about USS Farragut in anti-piracy action. Or the report on the frigate Nicholas taking down some pirates here.

    And, of course, the Maersk thing.

    Keeping the sea lines of communication open is a job for all the navies that want to help.

  • Paul

    Kudo’s to the captain and his crew who did what navies are supposed to do. Pirates are the scourge of the world and should be a common enemy of all, including bureaucrats.

  • Tim

    What is the law on capturing this ship, can the crew still get prize money? Anyone know?

  • Tim

    OK, to answer my own question a bit, it looks like this practice is outlawed, although I did not look at Dutch law in particular.

  • Chuck Hill

    Spanish American War was the last time it was done in the US.


    HUZZAH! Well Done Captian LODDER!


    “It is a senitment that I fear our great USN has lost. Do we leave it to the Dutch and the French to combat piracy? It is the only mission specifically enumerated in the Constitution of the United States of America?”

    Not to put to fine a point on it, but the mission is not enumerated in the Constitution. It is one of the powers of Congress delineated in Article 1 Section 8 “To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations”.

    Congress did so in US Code Title 33, Chapter 7, Sec 381. Use of public vessels to suppress piracy.
    “The President is authorized to employ so many of the public armed vessels as in his judgment the service may require, with suitable instructions to the commanders thereof, in protecting the merchant vessels of the United States and their crews from piratical aggressions and depredations.”

    Nothing in there on protecting German merchant vessels and German, Russian, and Sri Lankan citizens. Now we could capture the vessel the pirates came in.

    US Code Title 33, Chapter 7, Sec 382. Seizure of piratical vessels generally

    “The President is authorized to instruct the commanders of the public armed vessels of the United States to subdue, seize, take, and send into any port of the United States, any armed vessel or boat, or any vessel or boat, the crew whereof shall be armed, and which shall have attempted or committed any piratical aggression, search, restraint, depredation, or seizure, upon any vessel of the United States, or of the citizens thereof, or upon any other vessel; and also to retake any vessel of the United States, or its citizens, which may have been unlawfully captured upon the high seas.”

    Note, we are only authorized to retake “any vessel of the United States”, like, say, the Maersk Alabama and its life boat, but not German flag ships.

    Since it is a European Flag ship that was attacked and a European navy ship that was part of a EU naval force that responded to the attack, what exactly is the problem? Since Piracy is a national crime, only punishable in national courts, what exactly is your issue? We should be asking where the Maltese, Panamanian, Bahamian, and other flag of convenience navies are and why aren’t they doing anything to protect against Piracy.

    Interestingly enough, we could prosecute the Pirates, like we are doing with the one surviving pirate from the Marsk Alabama, if the Europeans decided to turn them over to us.

    Under US Code 18, Part 1, Chapter 81, Section 1651 Piracy under law of nations.
    “Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.”

    Let’s wait to see what the EU decides to do with the pirates. In this case, the German government has the strongest claim, although the Dutch probably have better laws against Piracy. In any event, given the European (France and Britian excepted) tendency to practice catch and release, we’ll see.

  • That the Dutch had to operate outside the established chain of command shows the folly of the “Thousand Ship Navy” paradigm. In this case, it worked in favor of a goal we generally support. But what if they had worked to get out of doing something we wanted done.

    The ONLY way to ensure ships at sea are operating in support of US goals is to use US Navy ships.


    I am not sure that this doesn’t show the strength of the, very poorly named, 1000 ship Navy. The Dutch have a common interest with the US in countering Piracy. They acted in their interests, and it ended up also being in our interest as well. The point of the 1000 ship navy, or the cooperative maritime strategy for that matter, is not to have everyone act in our interest but rather to have navies act in the common interest. I would say it worked here.

  • USNVO, that’s one way of looking at it. But the Dutch, one of our closest allies, in an operation that pretty much ANY nation would say was in its interests -the suppression of piracy- they STILL felt that using the established chain of command (for an operation that has been ongoing for a year) was too cumbersome to meet the threat.


    All true, but the salient point is that the Dutch national chain of command executed a mission that was in the Dutch national interest (and ours as well). That is the whole point of the 1000 ship navy concept, which is neither 1000 ships or a single navy. Acting in your own interest for the common good.

    In this case, it is not unusual that a nation would bypass the EU chain of command since the application of force to stop piracy is a national responsibility and governed by national law. The only authority the Captain needed to enforce Dutch law was permission to conduct a potentially hostile boarding. He would need that from his own government anyway. He just bypassed a bunch of people who could do nothing but delay the process. I would hazard a guess that the captain was following the standing guidance of his national authorities.

    That the EU Operation Atalanta is largely meant to politically “do nothing while appearing to do something about the problem” is widely recognized in Europe. I regularly interact with naval officers from NATO countries involved in Atalanta, and they are always frustrated by the crippling restrictions their national authories place on them. Of course, the vast majority of European governments have always been appeasers on Piracy.

  • My sense is this would not have occurred if the Dutch ship CO did not have confirmation the crew was in a bullet-proof safe room. It is a cost-benefit calculation every time and this seems an example of right place, right time. Great headliner event, but piracy persists.
    Regards, jpp

  • Leonard Daly

    @USNVO, since the Constitution states that treaties made with the advice and consent of 2/3 of the Senate are part of Federal Law, do your examples include references to treaties that have been entered into by the U.S.?


    No treaties cover piracy. None of the Geneva Accords cover piracy, and even the additional protocals of the 1858 treaty of Paris that ended the Crimean War that ended privateering does not really address piracy nor is it binding to the United States (since we are not a signature, we merely agreed to follow the provisions). For that matter, the federal courts have ruled that even if “the law of Nations” doesn’t clearly define something as piracy, if US law does than it doesn’t matter, it is piracy. Simply put, piracy is now, and always has been, a national crime. So only Federal Law applies. I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by one of the Judges from the Law of the Sea Tribunal and he was asked the question of their function on piracy. His answer was it wasn’t international law (no criminal law is) and was not an area they covered and it was solely a national issue.


    One addition, “the law of Nations” from the piracy statute does not apply to the international law that would stem from treaties and such but rather from customary international practice.

  • Great thread. Enjoyed the posts…