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Indian Ocean: Two vessels attacked in four days indicates resurgence of Somali piracy

By Sue Richards — last modified Oct 18, 2013 12:51 PM
Contributors: Tom Sampson / extracts from Yachting Monthly article
Yacht skippers in SE Asia will be thinking now of their plans for next year which might include an attempt to make an Indian Ocean passage. Naval forces have renewed warnings that the Somali piracy threat still remains and that yachts should avoid the High Risk Area of the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Western Indian Ocean.

Published: 2013-10-17 23:00:00
Topics: Circumnavigation , Cruising Information , Indian Ocean , Piracy & Security
Countries: Macau , Malaysia , Maldives , Myanmar (Burma) , Oman , Philippines , Seychelles , Singapore , Somalia , South Africa , South Korea , Taiwan , Thailand , Vietnam , Yemen , Brunei , Cambodia , BIOT (Chagos) , China , Djibouti , East Timor (Timor Leste) , Hong Kong , India , Indonesia , Japan

A fully laden super tanker, known as a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), was fired upon by eight armed men in two ‘skiffs’ 230 miles WSW of Hobyo, off the coast of Somalia on 10th October.

The ship's master raised the alarm, sounded the ship’s whistle, increased speed and mustered the crew. The on-board armed security team took their positions and fired warning rocket flares as the skiffs closed to a distance of 3nm and then 2nm. The skiffs ignored the warning flares and continued their approach. As one skiff closed to a distance of 400m the armed team fired a warning shot. This was also ignored by the pirates who continued to approach. When a second warning shot was fired at a distance of 250 meters the skiff stopped and returned fire with an automatic weapon. The armed team retaliated resulting in the skiffs aborting the attack and moving away.

This recent attack is the first report of a MV coming under small arms fire since the end of the Southwest Monsoon season in the Indian Ocean; a seasonal feature which results in a cessation of pirate activity in open ocean areas.  It is also the first large merchant vessel to be fired upon since April 2013.

No less than four days later a large fishing vessel was also attacked just 270 nms East of the attack on the merchant vessel.

We highlighted the continuing danger to yachts considering making a passage of the Indian Ocean earlier this year (see report) and these recent attacks confirm that the pirates are still very active.

Yachting Monthly report on this continued threat and include advice from Stuart Carruthers, RYA Cruising Manager who says; ""No one should be in any doubt about the ever present risk of attack by Somali pirates in this area. They know that sailing yachts are vulnerable; a ‘soft' target. They will exploit any weakness for their own gain. The unstable political and economic situation in Somalia remains unchanged and piracy continues to offer rich rewards. Had last week's attack been a sailing yacht and not a super tanker with protection then it would have been successful and the crew taken hostage for ransom".

Together with other organisations the RYA has met a number of times with naval forces, including NATO and the Combined Maritime Forces to discuss the on-going piracy threat for sailing yachts in the Indian Ocean.  Following the last meeting in September a new advisory for yachts was issued: the Somali Piracy Warning for Yachts.

"I recommend that anyone considering making passage through the High Risk Area read the advisory and think hard about the risk they are taking, and then for their own safety and those of their crew and for the well-being of their families and friends, they don't do it" concludes Stuart.

The Naval Forces are clear that whilst the levels of piracy have dropped over the past 18 months these latest incidents show that the pirates are still able and willing to get out to sea; they only have to be lucky once.

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