The hijacking of the French luxury sail vessel Le Ponant in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia was but the most successful of recent pirate attacks in those waters. In the past two weeks, there have been three other serious incidents reported (sources: IMB, ONI):
March 29, 2008
1040h local time, pos14º12’N, 50º44’ E (66nm off Somali coast)
Armed pirates in three speedboats attempted to board a general cargo ship underway. Master raised alarm, took evasive manoeuvres and contacted coalition warship for assistance. Master called the UKMTO Dubai and requested assistance from a coalition warship, according to instructions. The boats were unable to board the vessel, but continued to follow for two hours before leaving.
April 1, 2008
1440h (local), pos 13º45’N, 49º18E
A tanker underway was chased by three speedboats chased and attacked with automatic weapons and rocket launchers. Master took evasive manoeuvres and increased speed. Later, boats moved away. Ship’s funnel and lifeboat were damaged by gunfire/RPG.
An hour later, at pos 14º96’N, 49º42’E (41nm off Somali coast), five speedboats chased the ship again from various directions. Ship once more took evasive manoeuvres and prevented the boats from closing in. Finally, the vessel made its getaway and moved towards the shore of Yemen along with a car carrier and VLCC. The aggressive boats moved away. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre communicated with the coalition Navy, the owners and Master of ship to provide assistance as required. One coalition warship was in the vicinity monitoring the five speedboats.
April 2, 2008
1300h (local), pos 11º14’N, 47º15’E (10nm off coast)
Fishing vessel hijacked. Offshore Supply vessel (C-QUEST) picked up two small boats on radar moving towards research vessel (NALIVKIN). The Somaliland Coast Guard (SLCG) was informed and sent out patrol boat (SNAKE I) to investigate the suspicious activity. It was found that three Somali nationals in a small outboard craft, dressed like locals in shirts and trousers, armed with AK-47s, hijacked a Yemeni fishing vessel that was towing two small 7m boats and captured all 15 Yemeni crewmembers. However, when the hijackers were distracted by the (SNAKE I), a captured crewmember dove overboard, cut the towing line of one of the small crafts and escaped. He claims that he is not aware of where the hijackers were coming from but was told they are heading to Bosaso. He also stated that they were not told what would happen to them and that they just wanted the fishing vessel. The rescued crewmember had a treated wound (bite marks to hand). He made a request that he be put ashore so he could speak to his agent Farah Ali Jama. He will be landed at Berbera.
The International Maritime Bureau currently advises that ship’s masters should “…exercise caution while proceeding to render assistance to dhows/fishing boats while approaching/transiting the Somalia coast. Reports received have indicated vessels as far as 390 nm from the Somali coast are called up by drifting dhows/fishing boats requesting assistance.”
This may make commercial mariners, and pleasure boaters, much less likely to respond to a real emergency in the area, but this is an unfortunate repercussion of the pirate attacks. Note, as well, that the IMB is warning mariners about vessels as far out as 390 nautical miles from Somalia itself. That’s almost 450 miles to the land-bound.