Earlier this month an IMB study identified Somali waters as being amongst the most dangerous in the world. These recent attacks, all involving armed pirates boarding vessels in international waters, underline the severity of the situation.
IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan stated: “This region has been perilous for seafarers for a number of years. Although always dangerous, up until this year we were seeing an overall decline in the frequency of attacks. 2007 has shown a complete reversal of this trend, with the number of acts of piracy already well surpassing those that occurred during the same period in 2006.”
The three most recent attacks have each involved international vessels hijacked and forced to sail into Somali territorial waters.
On 17 October 2007, a general cargo vessel, the Al Marjan, was hijacked after discharging cargo The Al Marjan was attacked and boarded approximately fifteen nautical miles from the Somali coast and forced to anchor closer to shore. The owners of the ship have lost contact with the crew and the fate of her eight member crew is currently unknown.
A Panamanian tanker, was attacked on 28 October 2007 while sailing through the Gulf of Aden. The crew sent out a distress call, but neither the PRC nor the vessel’s owners were able to contact the ship. The PRC informed the Coalition forces in the area who reported that the vessel was hijacked and forced into Somali territorial waters. There is no further information available regarding the whereabouts of the vessel or the twenty-three crew members aboard.
Prior to the hijacking of the vessel, there were reportedly two unsuccessful attempts to hijack tankers in the area.
On 29 October 2007, the North Korean flagged general cargo vessel Dae Hong Dan was attacked by eight armed pirates shortly after discharging cargo in Mogadishu. The crew of the Dae Hong Dan resisted the pirates. A US Navy vessel in attendance intervened. Six pirates were captured with two killed during the incident. Seven crew members were injured, with one now in serious condition. The naval vessel provided emergency medical assistance to all those who were injured.
Captain Mukundan stated: “The IMB wishes to extend our thanks to the US Navy for their prompt assistance to the Master and crew of the Dae Hong Dan. Without their help, the matter might have ended with a greater number of casualties. We hope the involvement of the US Navy will deter other pirates who have so far operated with impunity off this coast.”
PRC statistics detail thirteen reported hijackings off the Somali coast to date in 2007. This is nearly three times the five hijackings reported in the area for all of 2006.
The IMB recommends that anti-piracy watches are maintained and that any suspicious activity or acts of piracy are immediately reported to the PRC. It is strongly recommended that all vessels not calling at Somali ports maintain a distance of 200 nautical miles from this coastline.