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Gulf of Aden: Attempted Piracy - February 2018

By Yacht AraKai & UKMTO — last modified Apr 05, 2018 10:00 AM
Further updates of suspicious activity in the same area: UKMTO-10#72 states a motor vessel was attacked and shots fired by the onboard security team on 31 March 2018. Pirates were repelled in the position 13*57'N 51*43'E. AraKai's suspicious skiff activity on 18 Feb 2018 was in position 13*59.2'N 51*40.1'E. This incident on 31 March was within 3nm of where AraKai were first approached by the skiffs.

Published: 2018-02-19 00:00:00
Topics: Piracy & Security , Red Sea
Countries: Djibouti , Somalia , Yemen

First Person Report from Yacht AraKai:

At UTC 0530 on Sunday 18 February 2018 sailing vessel AraKai was approached by 5 skiffs in position 13* 58.42’N, 51* 37.62’E. We were steering a course of 252 degrees and were in the middle zone of the IRTC in the Gulf of Aden.

First skiff was sighted whilst approximately 2nm from AraKai and was approaching quickly on our starboard quarter from the Yemen coastline. Weather conditions were benign. Another skiff was seen soon after. A “Mayday” call was issued on VHF Channel 16. Container vessel Thalassa Nikki acknowledged our distress. The ship was travelling towards us in the IRTC eastbound at 12nm distance.

The OOW advised us to contact “Coalition Warships” on VHF 08. Nothing was heard.

The master of AraKai phoned UKMTO to alert them of imminent pirate attack. Whilst on the satellite phone 2 more skiffs were visible. 4 in total were now hunting AraKai.

We saw 5 people in 1 skiff as they closed in on our starboard side. They then proceeded to cross our bow and  became stationary approximately 0.5nm from us. The 3 other skiffs crossed us on our port quarter remaining further away. No weapons were sighted as we have no height advantage at 3m above sea level. The container ship on hearing a second Mayday from us saying 4 skiffs are in the vicinity alerted us that a Coalition helicopter will be in the area within 15 minutes.

True to form a  navy helicopter appeared and hovered over the skiffs. The skiffs then altered course and we noted 5 in total. 2 skiffs closed within 200 metres of our stern and this information was relayed to the UKMTO.

The navy helicopter informed us a Japanese Navy aeroplane had been deployed and was on the way to our position. They continued to circle us until the plane arrived 40 minutes later.

The Japanese Navy aircraft recommended to  us to alter course back eastwards to rendezvous with a Japanese warship, which was 66nm from us. They advised us they will continue to circle us until we reach the warship. The aeroplane continued circling us for the next few hours reporting the position of the skiffs. The skiffs followed us on a parallel course at a distance of 5-7nm. As we turned on a reciprocal course back eastwards they followed suit. It was especially humbling when the aircraft advised us 3 skiffs are on fast approach to our position. We were continually updated on the range and bearing of the Japanese warship. With both engines we were making only 8 knots.

At 1100 UTC Pakistani Navy vessel FFG 253 came into view. The Japanese Navy aircraft reported the skiffs were no longer within 10nm of us and departed. We noted the Japanese warship was also present. The Pakistani Navy vessel delivered extra fuel to us and we had concerns we would have enough to reach Djibouti. We were told we will be under escort the rest of the way.

We are incredibly lucky that we were not attacked however the threat was all to real. At no time did the skiffs look or act like fisherman. No nets, floats, flags were visible. We were essentially sitting ducks!

This has been a sobering and frightening experience.

Louise Wilkins
SY AraKai


UKMTO Warning Notice: 001/FEB/2018

18.02.2018: 0530 UTC: Posn: 13:59.12N – 051:40.06E, in vicinity of Point B IRTC, Gulf of Aden.

A yacht (ARAKI) reported a suspicious approach by a number of skiffs.  By 0730 UTC the skiffs were no longer within visual range.

Vessel is safe.

Further details on the above incident

A Singapore-flagged container vessel (THALASSA NIKI) reported a suspicious boat towing three skiffs at 0530 UTC in the vicinity of Point B IRTC, Gulf of Aden.  The vessel received a MAYDAY call on VHF Channel 16 that the yacht (15NM ahead) was being pursued by two skiffs.  Vessel informed UKMTO.  Two skiffs approached the yacht to within 1NM whilst three skiffs remained stationary at 2,5NM.  Fifteen perpetrators in the 5 skiffs were sighted. After assistance from both the Japanese and the Pakistan forces in the area, who deployed a helicopter resulting in the skiffs abandoning their approach, the yacht is safe and continued their voyage.  It is recommended that yachts follow the guidelines within BMP4.  (UKMTO, ReCAAP)

See noonsite's Piracy page for contact details for a GOA/Red Sea Passage and links to the BMP4.

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