Somali Pirates’ First Hijacking Attempt of 2014 Ends with Arrests

On Saturday 18 January 2014, the French EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia Operation Atalanta flagship FS Siroco in cooperation with Japanese assets released the crew of a Dhow that was suspected to have been used as pirate mother-ship.
A boarding team from the French EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia Operation Atalanta flagship FS Siroco boards a dhow suspected of being used as a pirate mothership in the Gulf of Aden, Saturday, January 18, 2014. Photo courtesy EU NAVFOR

Somali pirates on Friday unsuccessfully launched their first attack of 2014 on a tanker in the Gulf of Aden, resulting in the apprehension of five suspected pirates by naval counter-piracy forces a day later.

The International Maritime Bureau reported Friday that a group of pirates used a mothership to launch an attack on a tanker underway approximately 115nm South of Salalah, Oman. During the attack, the pirates approached in a skiff and fire upon the vessel, but the attack was aborted after the ship’s armed security team returned fire. The IMB report stated that following the attack a coalition helicopter came to the location to assist.

Today, the European Union Naval Force Somalia – Operation Atalanta (EU NAVFOR) released some additional details about what transpired following the incident, adding that five suspected pirates are now in custody in connection to attack.

In the update Monday, EU NAVFOR says an oil tanker issued a distress call to the UK Maritime Trade Operation (UKMTO) on the evening of Friday, January 17, 2014, reporting that it was under attack by pirates. Responding to the call, a Japanese Maritime Patrol Aircraft and a helicopter from the Japanese vessel JS Samidare were able to locate the dhow, which was believed to used as the mothership. The EU NAVFOR flagship FS Siroco was then able to close distance to the dhow and launch their helicopter and boarding team.

Upon nearing the dhow, the helicopter crew and boarding team observed that people on board the dhow were throwing equipment over board, strengthening the suspicion that the dhow was indeed the reported pirate mothership.

Once the Siroco’s team boarded the dhow, 5 suspected Somali pirates were separated from the dhow’s crew and transferred to FS Siroco for further investigation.

EU NAVFOR says that the dhow master’s initial statement supported the suspicion that his vessel had been pirated and his crew taken hostage several days ago off the coast of Somalia. The master also stated that the suspects were responsible for the attack on the oil tanker the day before.

“Thanks to an exceptionally effective international cooperation, we showed once more that there will be no safe haven for piracy in the area as long as Counter Piracy Forces remain fully dedicated to their task,” said EU NAVFOR Force Commander, Rear Admiral Hervé Bléjean. “I also congratulate FS Siroco with this success.”

EU NAVFOR says it will seek to prosecute the suspected pirates.

Piracy off the Horn of Africa dropped significantly over the last few years due to the role international navies, the hardening of vessels, the use of private armed security teams, and the stabilizing influence of Somalia’s central government. A total of 15 incidents were reported off Somalia in 2013, down from 75 in 2012, and 237 in 2011, according to new data released by the International Maritime Bureau. Somali pirates, however, are believed to still be holding 50 hostages, the EU NAVFOR says, and piracy is still considered a significant threat in the region.

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Photos courtesy EU NAVFOR