Somali pirates make their first return in years

Picarate activity has been flagged offshore Somalia after many years and commercial shipping has been advised to remain outside the country’s territorial waters due to the risk of “opportunistic armed robbery”.

An Iranian-flagged fishing vessel, Almeraj 1, has been hijacked by an armed Somali clan militia offshore Eyl, with demands of $400,000 in ransom and threats to use the ship for additional hijackings if the payment is not made, according to local media.

Maritime security consultants Ambrey said the reason given for the hijacking was the vessel/dhow allegedly performing illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Somalia has strict competing fishing regulations and no foreign ships can operate within its waters without its approval.

“The militia claimed they had requested assistance from authorities, which was reportedly not forthcoming, so they took control of the vessel,” Ambrey said in its note on Friday.

The vessel departed Chabahar, Iran, in October and appeared to intermittently conduct fishing operations within Somali territorial waters for a month. 

Ambrey described the vessel as a Jelbut-style round-stern dhow with a white and blue superstructure at the stern. It also has two Somali-style white-hulled skiffs with single outboard engines.

“Merchant shipping is advised to avoid the area, to be vigilant in case of a sighting, and to implement counter-piracy Best Management Practices,” the UK security expert said.

Somali pirates have mostly targeted smaller commercial dhows or fishing vessels in the past. Piracy was rampant off Somalia for a four-year period from 2008 but then it went dormant for about five years. The last reported hijacking involving a commercial ship was in 2017 when a bulk carrier OS35 became the fifth ship to be attacked within three weeks.

Source: Splash 247

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