Chemical Tanker Attacked by Pirates Off Coast of Somalia

MT Leopard Sun. Photo: EU NAVFOR

A Singapore-flagged chemical tanker was attacked by armed pirates off the coast of Somalia on Friday, but the attack was repelled after the ship’s armed security returned fire, according to naval officials.

The attack, which officials say is likely to be piracy related, was the first such incident to take place in the Horn of Africa region so far this year.

The European Union’s Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) confirmed today that the MT Leopard Sun was attacked by two skiffs with armed men today at 0030 local time approximately 160 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.

According to the report on the incident, the skiffs approached the MT Leopard Sun from the stern and fired shots at the ship, at which point the ship’s Private Armed Security Team returned fire with warning shots. The attack lasted approximately 20 minutes before the skiffs eventually turned away.

The 50,000 metric tonne chemical tanker was en route from Sohar, Sultanate of Oman to Cape Town, South Africa when the incident occurred.

EU NAVFOR has confirmed that the vessel and crew are safe, and they are in contact with the shipping company and the ship’s master to further assess the incident. The crew’s use of the full range of Best Management Practices (BMP4) as well as the actions of the embarked private armed security team (PAST) are being credited with saving the ship. 

“It is clear the ship, crew and the security team demonstrated a very high standard of self-protection protocols in line with BMP4. The reporting of the incident to UKMTO/ EU NAVFOR MSCHOA was exemplary in both speed and detail, including the damage to the ship from gunfire from the skiffs,” the EU NAVFOR said in its report.

Following the attack, the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) issued navigation warnings and alerts to inform both mariners and merchant vessels in the High Risk Area.

“Merchant vessels in the proximity of the location where the incident took place have been warned directly of the existence of a potential Pirate Action Group (PAG),” EU NAVFOR said in its report. “EU NAVFOR and CMF together with military partners will continue to coordinate their understanding and response to this incident.”

The attack on the Leopard Sun marks piracy incident since the British-owned containership Ever Dynamic was chased and fired upon with rocket-propelled grenades off the coast of Somalia in November 2017. The suspected pirates in that case were later captured by an Italian warship, and have since been charged with piracy related crimes in the Seychelles. The six suspects, if convicted, could face up to 30 years in jail.