ONBOARD HMCS WINNIPEG (CBS) Canadian Naval helicopters thwarted an attack Friday by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on a U.S. cargo ship, the Maersk Virginia - from the same fleet as the Maersk Alabama, whose captain was held captive for four days in April.
CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar is aboard the Canadian warship HMCS Winnipeg, which first responded to a distress call by a Lebanese flagged cargo ship called the Maria K. The crew reported rocket propelled grenade fire from the pirates.
Within minutes, three naval helicopters from the Winnipeg were in the air and on their way to the Maria K, located about 60 miles away. The pirates broke off their pursuit of the Maria K and headed instead for the nearby American ship.
An Italian Naval helicopter joined the Canadian aircraft. With the helicopters hovering overhead, the pirates gave up their attempted hijacking and threw their weapons overboard before their boat was boarded by Italian seamen.
The Gulf of Aden is infested with Somali pirates, but is a crucial shipping channel for hundreds of merchant vessels every day. An increasing number of international warships have been moved to the region to protect them.
Maersk Lines, Limited, based in Virginia, declined to comment on the thwarted attack on their vessel Friday morning.
Maersk Virginia Captain Sean Hughes went through a similar ordeal in the Gulf of Aden in November 2008, when pirates chased him as he piloted the same vessel to safety by out-maneuvering the bandits.