GAETA, Italy - U.S. Sixth Fleet, while operating in the Eastern Mediterranean, conducted simultaneous compliant boardings of two merchant vessels today in international waters.
USS Ramage (DDG 61), USS Ross (DDG 71), USS Hayler (DD 997) and USS La Salle (AGF 3) participated in the operations at approximately noon (Central European Time).
Merchant vessel Capten Mohamed was intercepted and boarded by USS Ramage approximately 26 nautical miles northeast of Cyprus. Merchant vessel Hajji Rahmeh was intercepted by USS Ross, USS Hayler and USS La Salle approximately 75 nautical miles northwest of Cyprus. Both of the merchant vessels were operating under Syrian registration.
In both cases the Navy requested and received permission from the merchant vessel Master to board the ship and conduct an inspection of the their cargo, cargo manifest and national registration documents.
Both merchant vessels had displayed suspicious behavior and were under surveillance for several weeks. The United States European Command directed Commander Sixth Fleet to intercept the vessels and request permission to conduct these inspections.
Compliant boarding operations are done in cooperation with the ship's Master and crew and are designed to ensure the safety and welfare of legitimate merchant shipping. In recent weeks the U.S. Navy, in cooperation with coalition nations, has increased surveillance of merchant activities in the Mediterranean and completed additional training to increase its readiness to conduct maritime interception operations. These operations are intended to deny the Mediterranean to anyone who would use it for any activities associated with terrorism.
The inspections of the cargo, manifest and registration on these vessels revealed no significant discrepancies and there was no contraband discovered. The Masters and crews were compliant and cooperative throughout the inspections and were permitted to proceed after the boarding teams disembarked. These operations were completed without damage to any of the vessels involved.