By USS Vella Gulf Public Affairs
March 2, 2002, USS VELLA GULF, At Sea (NNS) - USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) boarded and seized the motor vessel Lina, of undetermined registry, in mid-February, as a suspected Iraqi oil smuggler operating in the Gulf of Oman. Vella Gulf, an Aegis guided-missile cruiser assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) battle group, was conducting Maritime Interception Operations in support of United Nations Security Counsel sanctions against Iraq during the time of the boarding.
M/V Lina, a medium-size coastal tanker, had a history of oil smuggling operations in the Arabian Gulf. Previous boarding attempts by coalition warships had been unsuccessful due to Lina's highly-modified and reinforced locking measures fitted around the ship. These locking measures delayed previous boarding team's ability to enter and take control of the ship prior to re-entering territorial waters.
During the boarding operation, M/V Lina entered International waters, and after repeated unanswered bridge to bridge queries, a non-compliant boarding of the motor vessel was initiated by Vella Gulf. An eight-man U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment (LEDET), embarked on Vella Gulf, as well as the ship's helicopter, small boat and support boarding elements, embarked Lina and executed a non-compliant take-down of the vessel.
Boarding teams encountered reinforced and welded entrances, as well as aggressive ship maneuvering designed to hamper and delay the team's ability to board the ship. At one point during the operation, Lina maneuvered threateningly and appeared intent on ramming Vella Gulf, closing to within 150 yards. Swift maneuvering by Vella Gulf's bridge watch team quickly defused the threat of collision.
During the boarding operation, 21 crewmembers were detained, ship stability evaluated and preparation for towing operations completed. There were no injuries throughout the operation. M/V Lina will be towed to a holding area in the Arabian Gulf for further investigation and inspection.