Our pirate raid hero

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A GARSTANG sailor has been caught up in a dramatic high seas rescue of fishermen kidnapped by Somali pirates.

Jason Moreland, 27, is on patrol in the Gulf of Aden as part of a British navy and multi-national naval exercise combating the pirate threat to international shipping in the waters around the Horn of Africa.

The volatile area has seen shipping seized and hundreds of hostages taken over the past few years - prompting international action aimed at quashing the pirate menace.

Last week Royal Navy frigate HMS Cornwall, on which Jason is a crew member, was alerted to suspicious activity by an Arab dhow - prompting a high profile military intervention.

HMS Cornwall’s commanding officer, David Wilkinson, launched the operation involving a boarding team and a Lynx helicopter.

During the incident the 17 pirates, who had captured the fishing boat last year and who had kept the five-strong Yemeni crew captive, were captured themselves.

A further search of the boat revealed a cache of weapons including a rocket-propelled grenade as well as boarding ladders.

Jason’s parents, Andy and Linda Moreland of By-Pass Road, Garstang, this week spoke of their pride in their son’s involvement.

Andy, an electrician, and Linda, a hairdresser, said the family kept in touch with Jason via emails and phone calls, though Jason had not been able to tell them too much about the operation for security reasons.

Andy said: “He said they had sent out a boarding party and told me what happened about intercepting the pirates.”

He added: “When I heard about it on the TV news I was quite excited. I am proud that he is doing his bit to help to deter the pirates ... at least they are keeping them from the shipping lanes.”

Commander Wilkinson, said: “We go in hard and fast, so the pirates don’t really have time to think, let alone act.

“My highly trained team has conducted a very slick boarding operation which has ensured that this pirate vessel is no longer able to operate.”

Jason, a former pupil of St Thomas’s CE School and Garstang High School, has served in the Royal Navy for eight years.

He started out as an apprentice engineer and has risen through the ranks to become a leading engineer specialising in technical weapons.

He joined HMS Cornwall last summer having previously served in the Persian Gulf. He has also undertaken training at the land-based HMS Collingwood and the Royal Navy Leadership Academy at Portsmouth.

The news of HMS Cornwall’s action featured prominently on TV channels around the world last week.

Although the rescue was good news for the fishermen, who were handed back their boat, the incident was just a small part of a much bigger picture.

Hundreds of hostages are still being held in dozens of hijacked ships off the Somali coast where pirates have been able to operate with impunity.

The captured pirates were returned to their homeland - the only option open to the international forces patrolling the area to protect shipping.

Piracy in the busy shipping lanes off Somalia has flourished since the government collapsed in 1991, becoming a multi-million dollar business.