IMB reports a cluster of pirate attacks off the East Coast of Somalia

  • 31 March 2009

March 2009 has seen a spike in pirate activity off east-coast Somalia, as reported to the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre.a spike in pirate activity off east-coast Somalia, as reported to the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre.

By the end of the month, 15 such attacks on vessels had been reported for March 2009. In January and February this year there were, respectively, zero and two attempted attacks off the east coast of Somalia. This increase is contrary to the recent trend, which had seen pirates focusing on the Gulf of Aden.

IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan commented: “This is a worrying development, as there does not appear to be a decline in the attempted attacks off Somalia. The pirate gangs proved a while ago that they can operate hundreds of miles off the Somali coast, launching their attacks off mother ships which appear to be fishing trawlers or dhows. The recent attacks off the east coast in the past three months confirms the need for merchant vessels to remain alert as they sail in these waters. The IMB is recommending that unless vessels are calling into ports along the East African coast they stay as far off the coast as reasonably practical.”

Since the international community responded to calls to protect shipping in the Gulf of Aden, the number of successful hijacks off Somalia’s northern coast has significantly dropped. “The navies of third countries operating off the Horn of Africa have played an invaluable role in protecting vessels in the Gulf of Aden and this has resulted in a dramatic drop in successful hijackings there, although attempted attacks continue,” added Mr Mukundan.

At the peak of pirate activity off Somalia, 17 vessels were held captive pending negotiations between owners and hijackers.  Today there are nine vessels and 153 crew held hostage by pirate gangs.

Many of the attempted attacks reported this month happened hundreds of nautical miles from the Somali shore. In one instance, an attempt was made on a bulk carrier some 900nm from the coast. There has also been a cluster of attacks about 400nm southeast of Mogadishu.

The two most recent hijacks, of the tankers Nipayia and Bow Asir, both took place over 300nm off Mogadishu. The vessels were hijacked on 25 and 26 March 2009 respectively after a series of attempted attacks in the preceding days failed.

The IMB advises that Masters maintain strict 24-hour piracy watches and be especially wary of any approaching small craft. The IMB urges the reporting of all actual or attempted attacks, as well as any suspicious vessel movements, to its Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC). Such information could provide vital intelligence for other Masters navigating in the area and has resulted in attacks being averted.