French yacht hijacking part of growing Somali piracy trend

  • 9 April 2008

A French yacht has been hijacked off the Somali coast, just the latest incident in waters identified by the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as being amongst the world's most dangerous.

Around ten pirates armed with automatic weapons stormed the luxury vessel whilst she was under way in the Gulf of Aden. The vessel and her 30 crew have been taken to the Somali coast where they are being held hostage. The vessel is being monitored by a French naval vessel whilst at anchorage.

This is the latest in a recent spate of attacks in the region, as identified by the IMB’s Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC). In 2007, there were 31 actual or attempted attacks on vessels off the Somali coast.

IMB Director, Captain Pottengal Mukundan stated: “2007 showed a significant increase in the number of attacks in this region, a trend that appears to be continuing. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre had reported an attempted attack against a product tanker in the same area a few days before the attack on the French vessel. It was clear that they were looking for a vessel to seize.”

Operating from “mother ships”, the pirates often attack vessels that are hundreds of nautical miles out to sea before taking them into Somali waters. In previous warnings, the IMB has urged vessels not calling at Somali ports to maintain a distance of at least 200 nautical miles from the Eastern coastline, however, it is not practical for vessels to maintain this distance off the North East coast.

Captain Mukundan continued: “We are now seeing these attacks happen in the Gulf of Aden, a major waterway for vessels heading into and out of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. The pirate gangs are ranging far away from their traditional bases on the East coast to seize vessels in the Gulf of Aden. It is vital that masters continue to report every attempted attack to the Piracy Reporting Centre, so other vessels can be put on notice. Vessels are advised to note the daily situation reports broadcast by the Piracy Reporting Centre.”