Somali pirates are believed to be behind the fourth attack on a vessel in a month. Security authorities are confirming reports from over the weekend that a Yemeni fishing boat was hijacked and last seen in Somali waters.
UK Maritime Trade Organization (UKMTO) issued an update to an earlier unconfirmed report saying that it believes a Yemeni fishing vessel was hijacked. They are quoting local authorities saying the fishing boat named Emerat-2 was last seen heading north along the Yemeni coast. They described the vessel as being 58 feet (17.7 meters) long with a white hull. It is unclear how many people were aboard.
They are citing the vessel’s last known position as approximately 8 miles north of Eyl, on the southwestern coast of Somalia facing the Arabian Sea. It is in the breakaway Puntland region, which claims to be autonomous. It is the same area where the other recent pirate attacks originated from earlier in December.
Some of the media reports are putting the fishing boat’s location close to the island of Socotra. It has been reported in the past that the island was controlled by pirates.
One of the concerns is that the pirates might be using the smaller fishing boat as a mother vessel. UKMTO cites military authorities who assess that the vessel might be used for future piracy attacks. At the beginning of December, another fishing vessel was seized with Somali media also saying the pirates were threatening to use the vessel as a base of additional attacks unless their ransom demands were met. EUNAVFOR later reported that the first fishing boat had been tracked into Somali waters with the details handed over the Somalia which reported it was arresting the pirates.
EUNAVFOR had said they believed the threat from the first hijacked fishing boat was resolved, but since then Somali pirates have been reported to have unsuccessfully attacked the tanker Central Park and a week and a half ago seized a Navibulgar bulker. While the boarders were captured by the U.S. Navy when they attempted to flee from the tanker, pirates are believed to still be controlling the bulker Ruen.
An official from the Myanmar Seafarers Association (MSF) released a statement today saying that the families have still not been able to make contact with crewmembers aboard the Ruen. They reported that the families are anxious as they have been unable to confirm the situation aboard the vessel. The crew is from Bulgaria and Myanmar. One crewmember was evacuated for medical treatment by the Indian Navy while there had been reports that the captors would be providing phones to the ship’s crewmembers so that they could contact their families.
UKMTO is asking vessels to report suspicious activity especially because of the concern that pirates could be using the smaller ship as a base. EUNAVFOR has been highlighting that the last confirmed piracy incident in the region took place in 2019. Most of the attacks on commercial vessels had taken place before 2014 with only two vessels seized and released in 2017 and one unsuccessful attempt in 2018