Armed Security Team Thwarts Pirate Attack in Gulf of Aden

somali pirates
A EU NAVFOR boarding team in the Gulf of Aden. File photo credit: EU NAVFOR

Another attempted boarding of a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden shows that pirates are still active in the region, at least off the coast of Yemen.

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre shed light into the recent attack, which occurred Monday (May 16). According to the report, five skiffs approached the stern of a containership underway, prompting the Master to raise the alarm, increase speed and muster crew members. As the five skiffs closed to five cables from the ship, a ladder could be seen in one approaching skiffs, the IMB said.

The skiffs aborted the attack after an armed security team on the containership fired warning shots. The Master then contacted the authorities and nearby warship dispatched its helicopter.

While pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean off the coast of Somali have not had a successful hijacking since 2012 and there were no Somali-based attacks reported in 2015, the IMB warns that vessels transiting the area should stay particularly vigilant.

“Somalia remains a fragile state, and the potential for an attack remains high,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, in the February. “It will only take one successful hijacking to undo all that has been done, and rekindle this criminal activity.”

IMB Piracy Reporting Centre's Live Piracy May showing piracy incidents in the Gulf of Aden in 2016, with Monday's attack highlighted. Credit: IMB
IMB Piracy Reporting Centre’s Live Piracy May showing piracy incidents in the Gulf of Aden in 2016, with Monday’s attack highlighted. Credit: IMB

According to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre’s Live Piracy Map, Monday’s attack was the second reported piracy incident off the coast of Yemen so far in 2016. The first incident occurred April 24 when a product tanker underway was fired upon near the Port Al Mukalla. In that incident, an armed security fired warning shots causing the skiffs to move away.

Despite the decrease in number of incidents, particularly in the industry-defined High Risk Area of the Gulf of Aden, there continues to be strong naval presence in the area. The European Union’s counter-piracy Operation Atalanta, whose main focus is the protection of World Food Programme vessels and the deterrence, repression and disruption of piracy off the Somali coast, has been approved to continue operations until at least December 2016.