Derbyshire man takes on Somalian pirates
REAR Admiral Peter Hudson's new job is far from the Peak District he stomped round as a lad.
The 48-year-old is now in charge of an operation launched to tackle the pirate ships circling the waters off the coast of Somalia.
The father-of-three heads up a team of 11 warships and a workforce of 120 and is responsible for protecting vessels carrying aid, oil, gas and goods.
But the pirates that RAdm Hudson's crews are fighting are nothing like the romantic versions shown in films.
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They are heavily armed and dangerous criminals who will kill to get aboard a ship.
"They aren't the type of people that go sailing around the Caribbean looking for chests full of gold," said RAdm Hudson.
"Nowadays they have rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns and want to take control of vessels that are carrying gas and oil.
"Merchant sailors have been killed in the process of pirates trying to take over vessels – it is not at all romantic."
RAdm Hudson took up the post as the new EU commander of Operation Atalanta last month.
Launched in December, it was designed to protect vulnerable ships sailing through trade corridors in the Gulf of Aden.
These include vessels carrying aid from the World Food Programme and ships supplying the African Union Mission in Somalia.
About 30,000 vessels pass through the waters every year, destined for the Far East.
There are currently 10 ships under pirate control in the ocean, some of which have been held for four months, while the pirates negotiate terms with the shipping companies that own the huge vessels.
According to RAdm Hudson, the number of ships trying to take control of boats off the cost of Somalia has risen in the past six months.
He said: "Young lads, who have very few prospects, are sitting on the beach when the pirates come back from the sea with millions of dollars.
"They think it is a quick way to make some cash.
"Some will go out and try their luck on fishing boats, whereas others target bigger vessels.
"But because of our work, and the work of other agencies, the success rate of pirates taking over ships has dropped from one in three to one in 10.
"One of the key things we do is advising merchant ships on how to defend themselves against pirates and how to manoeuvre their ships to stop people from getting on board.
"If pirates don't get on fairly quickly they tend to give up.
"There is normally a 30-minute window in which to react; once that time has elapsed the pirate normally stop trying."
If a vessel comes under attack, the ship will raise an alarm and Rear Admiral Hudson's force commander will be notified.
"If we have ships in the area we will get as close to the merchant ship as we can and try to catch the pirates," he said.
"What we have to be very careful about is pirates who have seized merchant ships, as when this happens we have to take a considered approach."
RAdm Hudson grew up in Mastin Moor and went to Netherthorpe Grammar School, in Staveley, until he joined the Navy at the age of 18.
His parents, Brian and Lilly, lived in Mastin Moor for 35 years.
He now lives in Chichester with his wife, Linda, and three children, Guy, 20, 10-year-old Hugh and seven-year-old Jamie.
But he remembers his time in Derbyshire fondly.
"I go out walking in the South Downs.
"But it is not a patch on the Peak District – I still hanker after my time of stomping around the area," he said.
"I have fond memories of Derbyshire."