This month’s piracy report covers all piracy-related activity across the world’s most dangerous waters, including the Horn of Africa / Indian Ocean, West Africa, South-east Asia and South America.
Ship-technology.com’s piracy report is compiled using detailed data aggregated by Oceanuslive.org.
As of 28th March 2012, EU NAVFOR figures state eight vessels and an estimated 236 hostages are currently held captive by pirates. Somalia’s report indicates 327 hostages are held from 25 captured vessels, with a further 25 land based hostages, giving a total of 352 hostages.
March piracy and hijacking report:
- Indian Ocean – Bolivia-flagged, Iran-owned bulk carrier, MV Eglantine, was attacked in position 07:00N – 069:49E, approx 200nm SW of Minicoy Island at 0330 UTC. The vessel has since been freed off of Hoarafushi Island in the Maldives, the first hijacking in the waters of the archipelago.
- Somali Basin – An Oman-flagged fishing vessel, Naham 3, has been reported hijacked and 15 crew members taken as hostages in position 06:18.50N – 050:13.04E, around 115nm NE of Hobyo, Somalia. The fishing vessel was located near the coast of Somalia. Further report awaited. Initial report (via IMB) 26 Mar.
- Gulf of Aden – A Dhow was reported hijacked by pirates 10nm NE of Ras Caseyr, Somalia, in the vicinity of position 12:00N – 051:22E at 1700 UTC 26 Mar. The Dhow is believed to have a fibreglass hull with a red bottom, white top and a blue strip between the two. The bridge is white in colour with black stripes and Dhow is currently in the Gulf of Aden. Via NSC.
- Indian Ocean – A fishing vessel was reported hijacked in the vicinity of position 03:00N – 055:00E, and was taken to the Somali coast 26 Mar. The FV was last seen in vicinity of 05:31N – 048:41E. PAG may be operating in the area. Reported (via NSC) 27 Mar.
Unsuccessful pirate attacks / robberies (all regions):
- Arabian Sea – Seven to eight robbers boarded an India-flagged barge carrier, Ocean 6, from a small rubber dinghy boat, and held a duty seaman hostage at 0450 LT in position 18:53.25N – 072:52.53E, approximately 2.6 nm southeast of Dolphin Lighthouse, Mumbai Anchorage, India. Ships’ stores were stolen and the robbers escaped. No crew members were injured. Port authorities alerted the coast guard and local police authorities in Mumbai. A patrol boat in area was diverted for further investigation. The VTMS initiated a broadcast to alert vessels in vicinity. Reported 3 Feb.
- Malacca Strait – Two robbers armed with long knives boarded a berthed Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier, Tequila Sunrise, during cargo operations and entered the engine room via the steering room entrance at 0300 LT, in position 03:23.24N – 099:27.53E, Jetty No.3 MNA, Kuala Tanjung, Indonesia. The duty oiler noticed the robbers and tried to activate the fire alarm but the robbers threatened him with a knife and tied his arms. The robbers took the oiler as hostage to the main deck and then escaped with the stolen ship stores. Alarm raised and robbery reported to the authorities who came onboard to conduct an investigation. Initial report (via IMB) 4 Feb.
- Gulf of Aden – While at anchor, six robbers armed with knives boarded Panama-flagged chemical tanker, Ginga Tiger, from the poop deck at 0935 LT in position 13:09.21N – 048:45.40E. On boarding, the robbers held a crew member hostage and entered the accommodation area. The crew managed to escape and raised the alarm. As the crew was mustered, the robbers escaped with some engine spares. No damage to ship or crew injuries as robbers escaped with engine spares. Reported (via ReCAAP) 22 Mar.
- Arabian Sea – Master onboard an Ethiopia general cargo vessel, Andinet, noticed three skiffs approaching at high speed at 1720 UTC in position 22:37.50N – 063:31.80E, around 220nm east of Sur, Oman. Skiffs were observed following the vessel as it altered course to move away. Seeing this, the Master alerted the embarked security team, who fired warning shots when the skiffs were observed 15/20 feet away from the vessel. The skiffs moved away. No casualties to crew and the ship. Initial report (via IMB) 23 Mar.
- Arabian Sea – Duty officer onboard a Liberia-flagged tanker, Cosmic Jewel, underway noticed a mother vessel at a distance of 6nm at 1100 UTC: in position 20:49N – 062:27E, around 190nm ENE of Sur, Oman. At a distance of 4nm, the mother vessel was noticed launching a skiff. The Master alerted the onboard security team. The skiff approached the vessel at a speed of around 25-30 knots. The Master raised the alarm, sent a distress message and altered course. As the skiff closed to around 1,000 metres, the onboard security team launched a rocket flare and fired two warning shots, resulting in the skiff stopping and moving towards the tanker’s stern. The skiff, with six to seven pirates, maintained a distance of 1nm and continued to chase the tanker. Only when the armed security team fired more warning shots did the skiff stop and abort the attack, to then return to the mother vessel. A warship responded to the distress message and sent a surveillance aircraft to the location. Initial report (via IMB) 24 Mar.
- Atlantic – Two boats approached an anchored Denmark-flagged product tanker, North Princess, during heavy rain at 2215 LT: in Port Au Prince Anchorage, Haiti. Duty crew noticed there were two to three armed robbers on each boat and one robber threatened him by waving a hand gun. One of the robbers, armed with a machete, managed to board the tanker and was seen cutting the mooring rope on the poop deck. The OOW raised the alarm and contacted the pilot station for assistance. On hearing the alarm, the robber jumped into the water, with the stolen stores, and escaped in their boat. A coast guard boat was despatched to the location and manoeuvred around the tanker. The Master heaved up the anchor and proceeded to drift outside the anchorage area. Initially report (via IMB) 24 Mar.
- Arabian Sea – Two skiffs approached a Liberia-flagged bulk carrier, Blue Diamond, underway at 1351 UTC in position 14:17N – 056:51E . As the skiffs closed, the Master raised the alarm, increased speed, took evasive manoeuvres and the onboard security team fired warning shots. At a distance of around 0.8nm, one skiff fired a RPG towards the vessel. The security team returned fire resulting in the skiffs aborting and moving away. Initial report (via NSC) 25 Mar.
- Indian Ocean – Four armed pirates in a skiff chased and fired 30 rounds at a Hong Kong (China)-flagged tanker, LR2 Polaris, underway at 0306 UTC in position 05:21S – 049:18E . The tanker enforced anti-piracy measures and the onboard security team returned fire resulting in the skiff aborting the attack moving away. The crew and vessel are safe. Initial report (via NSC) 26 Mar. The pirates were later tracked by EU patrol aircraft and an EU French frigate disrupted the PAG operation.
International anti-piracy response
EU NAVFOR force commander rear admiral Jorge Manso has ruled out the possibility of carrying out an armed raid to free 220 seafarers held hostage by Somali pirates, including the South African couple, Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz.
“The main concern is not to put lives at risk. A recovery operation is highly risky,” Manso said.
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Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz are among the longest-held hostages in Somalia since being captured by pirates together with their yacht in the Madagascar / Mozambican channel, 16 months ago.
The EU confirmed its intention to extend the mandate of the counter-piracy mission, code-named Operation Atlanta, until December 2014. The decision effectively included an extension of the area of operation to include Somali coastal territory and internal waters.
The EU has also agreed to expand its mission against Somali pirates to include attacks on land targets. The ten EU warships operating off the Horn are now authorised to strike moored vessels and fuel dumps in “coastal territory and internal waters”.
Concern has arisen, however, that attacks on land are more risky with a greater chance for civilian casualties than attacks at sea. Experts have warned that any EU military successes could be overshadowed by civilian tragedies and that more must be done to address the root cause of piracy, in areas like Somalia, where statistics suggest that pirates make more money, and have higher life expectancy, than the country’s farmers.
Indian politicians are pressuring their government to intervene on behalf of crewmen of the hijacked MT Royal Grace. The Dubai-registered chemical tanker was captured by Somali pirates off the coast of Oman in March after setting sail from Sharjah. The crew of 22 consists of 17 Indians, three Nigerians, a Pakistani and a Bangladeshi.
Russia’s Northern Fleet, led by the Udaloy Class destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov, will soon depart on a new anti-piracy mission off the Somali coast. The new task force will replace the Russian Pacific Fleet’s task force, headed by the Admiral Tributs destroyer, which completed its anti-piracy mission off the Somali coast in March.
Nato and Russia have also agreed that countering piracy is a common security challenge and have agreed to explore ways to strengthen cooperation in this area under the Nato-Russia Council (NRC) Work Programme for 2012.
Building on limited military tactical cooperation off the Horn of Africa, they are seeking to strengthen the exchange of information and coordination, and are considering possible mutual support, such as refuelling and medical assistance, for ships involved in counter-piracy operations.
“We are all actors in the same area and good cooperation between our forces will enhance the effectiveness in keeping the shipping lanes safe as well as mutual understanding of the Nato and Russian units,” said Rear Admiral (LH) Sinan Azmi Tosun, current Commander of Ocean Shield, Nato’s counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden.
The United States joined representatives from nearly 70 countries, international organisations and the private sector at the United Nations, in New York on March 29, for the 11th gathering of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. One major achievement is the inclusion of post-piracy care for seafarers affected by piracy as part of its agenda.
Nato allies have also recently agreed to continue operation Ocean Shield through to 2014. The counter-piracy naval operation off the Horn of Africa will guard 2.5 million square nautical miles of water.
Anti-Piracy private security report
The release of UK hostage Judith Tebbutt in Somalia has drawn attention to the British security firms which are increasingly dominating Somalia’s lucrative anti-piracy industry, reported the BBC.
The UK Government refuses to talk to kidnappers, opening the door for private security firms, such as Control Risks, to work out lucrative deals.
BIMCO, an international shipping association, has announced today the publication of GUARDCON, a standard contract for the employment of security guards on vessels.
According to BIMCO the contract has been developed following the industries unfortunate need to provide ship owners and private maritime security companies (PMSC) with a clearly worded and comprehensive standard contract, which governs the employment and use of security guards, with or without firearms, onboard merchant vessels.
“In response to ship owners’ increasing demand for security services, an ever growing number of private maritime security companies have entered the market to meet that demand,” said Grant Hunter, BIMCO’s Chief Legal Officer.
Oceanuslive.org provides maritime situational awareness for ship and yacht masters, CSOs, DPAs and relevant authorities, to enhance security and safety at sea.