Somali pirates launched their first attacked on a merchant vessel in more than two and a half years, the European Union’s counter piracy operation Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) has confirmed.
The attack occurred Oct. 22 when a group of six armed pirates in a skiff chased and fired upon the UK-flagged chemical tanker CPO Korea approximately 330 nautical miles off the east coast of Somali.
EU NAVFOR confirmed the attack after a thorough investigation into the incident.
“During the attack a number of shots were exchanged between the six armed men, who were in a fast-moving skiff, and the armed security team on board CPO Korea,” EU NAVFOR said in a statement. “The suspected pirates eventually broke away after CPO Korea’s crew successfully implemented self-protection measures by increasing speed, altering course and rigging fire hoses to thwart the attack. CPO Korea was able to continue her transit in the Indian Ocean, with no casualties reported.”
This is the first reported attack on a merchant vessel off the coast of Somalia since early 2014. It comes after 26 hostages from fishing vessel, Naham 3, were released released Oct. 22 after being held by Somali pirates for four and a half years.
Pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean surged in 2008 and by January 2011 over 700 hostages and 30 vessels were being held by Somali pirates, according to EU NAVFOR. In recent years however piracy activity in the region has fallen to close to zero due to counter piracy naval patrols, shipboard security teams, and other self-protection measures implemented by the shipping industry.
Currently there are no vessels and sailors still being held captive.
Nevertheless, the threat of piracy in the region remains a concern. EU Naval Force (Somalia), Major General Rob Magowan CBE, has reiterated the need for continued vigilance at sea after this latest attack.
“This attack shows that pirates still have the intent to attack ships for ransom and cause misery to seafarers and their families,” says Major General Magowan. “It is imperative that the international community remains vigilant. The EU Naval Force is working with counter-piracy partners to coordinate efforts to ensure pirates do not once again terrorise the waters off the Somali coast.”
The counter-piracy military operation EU NAVFOR Somalia, also known as Operation Atalanta, has been active sea off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean since 2008. The mandate for operation is currently runs to December 2016.
The 52,000 dwt CPO Korea is managed by Germany’s Offen Tankers.
“[We] would like to express our appreciation and thanks to the crew and security team for safeguarding the crew, vessel and the environment by defending this pirate attack in a very professional manner,” Offen Tankers said. “Despite the decreasing number of attacks in the region the imminent risk of Somalian piracy still exists and needs to be addressed accordingly by owners and charterers alike.”