Suspicious Approaches Put Red Sea on Heightened Piracy Alert

File photo courtesy U.S. Navy
File photo courtesy U.S. Navy

Ships in the Red Sea and areas of the Gulf of Aden are on high alert for pirate activity following suspicious approaches this week on two tankers in three days.

The first incident came on March 23 when an unnammed chemical tanker was approached at high speed by five skiffs carrying three people each while underway in the Red Sea in position 13° 18’N, 042° 52’E. According to a report from the International Maritime Bureau, the tankers Master raised the alarm before the embarked security team fired a flare towards the skiff and brandished their weapons, causing the suspected pirates to abort their approach. The report added that ladders were observed onboard the skiffs as they closed to within 1 nautical mile.

The second attack came just three days later when the Master of an oil tanker reported being pursued by six skiffs in position 13°18’N, 042° 57’E at 1:23 p.m. local time. According to a Marshall Islands alert, reports say the skiffs, with an undetermined number of personnel onboard, came within 1.8 nautical miles of the ship before abandoning their approach. It is unclear if the tanker in this second attack was carrying a security team.

The suspicious pirate activity comes amid a steep decline in the number of reported piracy incidents in the region over the past two years primarily due to the use of armed security guards and a strong naval presence.

IMB reports 5 either suspicious events or attacks in the Somali region this year, while EU NAVFOR reports just 3.

Somali pirates have not successfully pirated a vessel since the hijacking of the Liberian-flagged oil tanker MT Smyrni in May 2012 off Oman.