Home News News Contact Us About Us Sign In

Weekly Pirate Activity Update - 30 Dec

December 29, 2011 - 19:49:58 UTC

OCEANUSLive Weekly Pirate Activity Update 

Tanker hijacked the main news. Pirates seized in local operations but civilians killed in crossfire. Ransom share causes rift among pirates. Unconfirmed EU to extend naval mission mandate, however, grant given to develop regional security. SE Asia robberies sees crewmen tied up. US Judge excuses himself from piracy trial. Private security - some success but also serious challenges. Indian seafarers tire of bearing the burden as another dies in captivity. China and Iran expanding their presence. Handing confiscated outboard motors to Djibouti claimed to be theft. Pirates phone threats to Indian police. Bringing cruise ships back to Kenya. Volvo Ocean Race yachts 'picked up' for transportation to the next stage.

Pirate flag

In understating the incident, the unfortunate hijacking of the Italian tanker, Enrico Ievoli, demonstrates the determination of Somali pirates to prey on seafarers. The Enrico Ievoli's journey to rendezvous with the Chinese escort convoy in the Gulf of Aden was halted, it has been reported, by the lack of appropriate security measures. Whatever security assessment had been (or not) conducted prior to the transit may have been their downfall, and serves as a cautionary tale for others.

The $11.5 million for the release of another Italian vessel, the Savina Caylyn, caused a rift amongst pirates due to the decision to release the Indian seafarers following a two-part payment. This exemplifies the added dangers faced by Indian seafarers should they be captured. This is no less a concern as the Enrico Ievoli has 7 Indian sailors onboard. Furthermore, Indian seafarer unions have been seeking the intervention of the Director General of shipping and the Government of India, and fear that the situation will deter newcomers to a career at sea. Pirates have taken nearly 100 Indians hostage in 2011 with another from MV Asphalt Venture reported to have died recently.

Operations in Puntland and Galmudug in Somalia have seen the apprehension of a number of pirates, however, pirates launched an ambush attack on four police vehicles in Galkayo resulting in the death and injury of civilians caught in the crossfire.

South East Asia has seen the continuance of pirate activity. As part of the act of robbery, crew members are being taken hostage and tied up whilst the robbers steal stores, spares and belongings. In South America, robbers have carried out robberies on ships in Ecuador over the last 10 days.

The US District judge presiding over the pirates that hijacked and killed the crew of SY Quest, has excused himself from the case due to a family connection involving the marina where the returned yacht is moored.

The Somali ambassador to Beijing states that China has "contributed a lot to regional stability", but Somalia itself has benefited little from the three years of escort missions, whereas, the countries the ships belong to benefit from the Chinese escort missions. Iran, however, claims  a Saudi oil tanker was saved by an Iranian destroyer, but the development has most likely taken place in the Sea of Oman where Iran is presently staging massive [controversial] wargames.    

Although the growing private security sector has seen success, there remain serious challengesThe use of guards is wrapped in red-tape and dogged by fears over sending hired guns to sea. An expert says “Policy has not kept pace with the evolving threat and without policy you can’t adapt or change legislation.”

A Somali Member of Parliament claims "we, [however,] have not given permission to the foreign navies to transfer property from the Somali territory into the hands of the Djiboutian navy," in reference to the handover of outboard motors, confiscated from suspect pirates at sea by EUNAVFOR naval units, and goes on to says that the engines were stolen by the pirate gangs from poor local fishermen or from governmental fisheries projects, and is, therefore, "pure theft."

Reports have surfaced from various quarters stating the possibility of the EU extending the mandate for the Naval mission, Op Atalanta, to include shore-based operations. In turn, this has drawn massive criticism from German politicians. To date, nothing further has been confirmed.

The first cruise ship to dock in Mombasa this season was met by a maritime official signalling increased confidence by the international community that the Somali coast was safer in the wake of the Kenya-driven Operation Linda Nchi. Two berths at the Mombasa port will be rehabilitated to accommodate cruise ships as Kenya prepares to increase its earnings from the lucrative tourism segment.

Indian police have received threatening phone calls from an alleged Somali pirate. The calls claim retaliation for holding fellow pirates in prison in India.

The Volvo Ocean Race, off radar last week, has now moved on to a non-traditional method of transporting yachts to the next stage.

East Africa                                

In the early hours of December 27, off the coast of Oman, the Italian-owned chemical tanker, Enrico Ievoli, was reported attacked and hijacked by Somali pirates.

Enrico Ievoli - Marinetraffic.com
Italian MT Enrico Ievoli (Photo: MarineTraffic.com)

The news was confirmed by the Italian Foreign Ministry that the chemical tanker carrying approximately 15,750 tons of caustic soda had been pirated. Pirates in Haradheere also confirmed that a vessel had been hijacked and was on its way to Somalia. Somalia Report states that the mothership, FV Ain, was used to carry out the hijack.

MT Enrico Ievoli, sailing from Fujairah (UAE) bound for the Mediterranean Sea, was captured approximately 215 nautical miles East by Northeast of Salalah, but less than 40nm from the Oman coast, at 0403 UTC. With a crew of 18 comprising of six Italians, five Ukrainians and seven Indians, it is owned by Marnavi of Naples in Italy. The Master had alerted the Italian Coastguard headquarters. It was heading toward the randevouz point with the Chinese armed convoy. The vessel was reported as reaching the Somali coast on Friday, with all crew safe. Read more.

Police from Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland seized 43 pirates during operations against pirates in the village of Garacad in Puntland's Mudug region, senior officials said.

Officials gratefully acknowledge the assistance of local elders.

Officials told Somalia Report that police seized the pirates along with their weapons and vessels, in the midst of planning new operations. "We succeeded at clearing the pirates from the coasts around the Garacad village, we seized 43 pirates, some weapons and a number of boats. The operations are now ongoing," Jama Mohamoud, commander of Police in Jariban District, told the press.

A police officer in Puntland told Somalia Report that the operations against pirates will be continue the coming days until the pirates are gone from the Garacad, Ceel Dhanaane and Jariban districts. "Now the police have evicted the pirates from Jariban district and Garacad village, and in coming days the police will clear out Ceel Dhanaane and with the help of residents remove pirates. We are demonstrating that Puntland is willing and ready to remove pirates from all regions," officer Abshirayto told Somalia Report.

Recent regional conferences on piracy were well-attended, and elders and traditional leaders from Garacad and Jariban areas have declared that they are ready to support operations against the pirates.

Conflict over the MV Savina Caylyn ransom payment has fuelled a serious rift between factions in the pirate gang responsible. 

According to the hijackers, an $11.5 million ransom was paid via two bag drops to release the vessel, which had a crew made up of 17 Indians and five Italians, says Somalia Report.

The atypical two-part ransom drop was a response to the pirates' previous refusals to release Indian hostages, even after being paid a ransom. The trend began on April 15, when pirates holding MT Asphalt Venture declined to release the eight Indian members of the crew, hoping to use them as pawns in a prisoner exchange for pirates captured by the Indian navy. Since then, pirates have repeatedly refused to release Indian nationals, and have even gone so far as to declare their intention to "hunt" Indian seafarers.

The size of the ransom, one of the largest to date, was reportedly a decisive factor behind the pirate gang's backtrack on its threat to continue to hold the 17 Indian hostages (out of 25 crew) onboard, regardless of whether a ransom was paid.

A number of pirates from this group had initially threatened to refuse to release 17 Indian hostages, but the group's leader, Ilyaas (a well-known pirate commander from Murarsade, a sub clan of Hawiye), alongside two other senior members of the gang, decided to release them. Read more.

At least four civilians died and six were injured in fighting between Galmudug security forces and pirates in southern part of Galkayo. The fighting came after a group of pirates launched an ambush attack on four police vehicles patrolling the village of Astangolol in southern Galkayo. Heavy fighting broke out at 8am local time (EAT) with civilians caught in the crossfire.

A local police chief told Somalia Report, "Armed gangs, namely pirates, assaulted four of our vehicles in a surprise attack, while we were patrolling the villages to keep security. 

Peace has been restored. One soldier was slightly injured, but four civilians are dead and six others injured. We will not be intimidated and will keep pressure on the pirates," said Abdi Jama'a Habeeb from Galmudug.

Ali Mahad, a journalist in Galkayo, told Somalia Report"Six civilians are hospitalized in Galkayo hospital and the injured include women and elders at their workplaces, caught in the crossfire."

The Galmudug administration has already promised to step up operations against the pirates, and in apparent response to recent arrests, the pirates have increased attacks in the Galmudug region. Recently the pirates abducted a 9 year-old boy, who was freed a few days later.

Militias from Somalia's semi-autonomous region Galmudug have arrested eight Somali pirates and their equipment, including guns and a car, in Galkayo. The pirates were seized during a security sweep carried out in south Galkayo, which is under the control of Galmudug State (north Galkayo falls under the jurisdiction of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland).

Galmudug President - Somalia Report
Galmudug President, Mohamed Alin

"Our soldiers captured eight pirates with a car and weapons, and detained them in custody on Wednesday, after we started security operation targeting pirates last week. We realize that pirates are the root of the insecurity in the region, which will not be solved unless the pirates are wiped out," Abdi Hirsi Qoorey, Galmudug's deputy police chief, told Somalia Report.

Galmudug's anti-piracy campaign follows in the wake of increasing violence and insecurity being caused by pirates on land, including fomenting clan conflict, murdering civilians, and even kidnapping a nine year-old boy. 

In the anti-piracy struggle Galmudug joins its northern neighbour of Puntland, which is in the midst of launching a specially equipped marine force to tackle piracy, and recently arrested 43 pirates in the central pirate hub of Garacad. 

"It is important to make an effort to reduce the growing murders of pirates. Puntland, Galmudug and and the TFG (Somali Transitional Federal Government) should all try to stop the evil activities of sea gangs," Ahmed Salah, a student in Galkayo District, told Somali Report.

The European Union plans to extend the mandate of its naval anti-piracy operations in Somalia to include attacks on installations and boats used by pirates, Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung reported, without saying where it got the information, reports Bloomberg.

The EU’s political and security policy committee has assigned the commander of the “Atalanta” anti-piracy mission the task of revising rules to enable onshore operations, the newspaper said. See more below.

West Africa                             

While piracy attacks off the coast of unstable Somalia have garnered lots of attention in recent years, maritime security experts say it is on Africa’s western coast, in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, where piracy attacks are currently on the rise.

Militants hidden behind bandanas from Nigeria’s Niger Delta oil region fire machine guns into the water from a speeding boat during a recent show of force staged for media. Their usual attacks range from stealing oil to kidnapping offshore oil workers for ransom.

Maritime security experts say these militants, who have been active for years have now inspired other pirates to arm themselves and stage lucrative attacks, up and down the coast of West Africa, off of Cameroon and more recently Equatorial Guinea, Togo and new oil producer Ghana. Off the coast of another targeted country Benin, more than 20 pirate attacks were reported this year, after none in 2010.

Experts say it is very difficult to come up with overall statistics, but that it is clear attacks are extending further along the coast and becoming more and more frequent.

Daniel Whiteneck, from the U.S.-based Center for Naval Analyses, says it is no surprise as pirate enterprises are easy to start and sustain in the Gulf of Guinea. “It is pretty cheap to step out there and say I can engage in quote unquote robbery at sea, smash and grab operations. It does not take a lot of capital investment to become a pirate, and a successful one," he said.

Weak local security and a coastline with many easy hideouts contribute to the problem.

Security experts say, while a few years ago, pirate attacks in West Africa usually consisted of five or six pirates on one speedboat these now usually involve up to 20 pirates on five or six boats.
Stan Ayscue, from the Securewest International company, which provides maritime security solutions, says the degree of violence has also gone up in recent years. "We are looking at militants spraying the wheelhouse (where the boat’s steering wheel is situated) with machine gun fire before even getting on board.  You are looking at once they are on board, beating crews with riffle butts, people getting whipped with electrical cables and shot quite openly," he said. 
Ayscue says pirates in several countries have infiltrated customs offices, so that they know when a ship they want to attack is coming through.
Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea often target ships for cash, valuables and cargo.

South East Asia                        

Piracy and robbery in the region has continued unabated over the holiday period. Although one tug boat towing a barge was hijacked, the vessel and 9 crew were later rescued by the Indonesian Navy. They despatched 1 aircraft and 3 warships to search the area for the missing barge, which was towed away by another tug and has not been located. Crew members in other robberies have suffered mistreatment in the course of the theft of stores and belongings on their respective ships. In more than one case, a crewman has been tied up, but fortunately, no deaths have been reported. Various port authorities, warships and coastguards have responded to the reports, however, the scourge of piracy and robbery at sea shows that it should not be considered only a problem around the African waters. The reports follow below.

Pirates in Court                       

A federal judge has excused himself from the case of the hijacking of a yacht that left four Americans dead after learning that the vessel is now being stored at a Portsmouth marina partially owned by his brother, writes HamptonRoad.com.

Just before the holiday, U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis informed the lawyers for 13 Somalis and one Yemeni that he was removing himself from the case.

The case will be transferred to another district judge, who will preside over the possible death-penalty trial of three remaining defendants, and two remaining sentencings. Eleven of 14 defendants have pleaded guilty.

The judge said in court that he only recently learned that the yacht, Quest, had been transferred from Norfolk Naval Station to the Portsmouth Boating Center, where it will be stored until the victims' family can retrieve it.

The marina is partly owned by the judge's brother, Michael K. Davis, who is listed in public records as its vice president. Calls left for Michael Davis at his home and the marina was not returned.

A group of pirates hijacked the 58-foot yacht in the Arabian Sea on Feb. 18. The hijacking turned deadly four days later when the U.S. Navy approached and tried to negotiate the release of the hostages.

Three of the Somalis are accused of shooting the Americans - yacht owners Scott Underwood Adam and Jean Savage Adam of Los Angeles, and their friends and crew, Phyllis Patricia Mackay and Robert Campbell Riggle of Seattle. Read more.

Private Security                       

Privately armed merchant ships have a 100-per cent success rate against Somali pirates, experts say, but using guards is wrapped in red-tape and dogged by fears over sending hired guns to sea - Best Shipping News.

Spiralling attacks off the lawless East African state have forced shipping companies to turn to private guards to shepherd crew and cargo through waters that reamin dangerous despite international naval patrols.

“They’re crying out for it and it’s a massive trend,” Graham Cormac, director of South African firm Specialist Maritime Services, said. “At the moment, demand outstrips supply.” His company charges up to US$5,000 (S$6,000) a day for four guards.

“The biggest problem that governments have is to do with their sovereign legislation pertaining to weapons,” Cormac added. “Policy has not kept pace with the evolving threat and without policy you can’t adapt or change legislation.”

Each country must grant permission for private guards in its waters, which can conflict with local weapons laws.

There are concerns too about the use of mercenaries, a spike in arms, questions of liability, and private militarisation of the seas. “This is a contentious topic,” said Joyce Marangu, Kenya Maritime Authority research and business development officer.

Private security had brought “some solutions but also serious challenges”. Ships carrying armed guards are meant to get clearance where they are registered, known as a flag state, before leaving on a voyage. “We are however witnessing an increase in merchant vessels with armed guards onboard without the authorisation from these flag states,” Marangu told a recent conference on African coastal security in Cape Town.

“Most ship owners find the process rigorous and avoid obtaining clearance so as not to lose windows at their next ports of call.”

Equally, some ships choose not to report onboard security to regional authorities for fear that international patrols will regard them as self-armed and ignore them. Read more.

Trawlercat Marine Designs of New Westminster, British Columbia, is seeking joint venture partners to join in building the first purpose-designed anti-piracy personal escort vessel (PEV) - Safety4Sea.

PEV - Safety4Sea

The PEV is designed to provide escorts for up to 20 ships proceeding in a convoy. Trawlercat envisages two models. The first type, the Visual Enforcer, comes in bright yellow or safety orange to ensure 'would-be pirates' see them and stay well away from any ship or ships they're escorting. The second model, the Stealth Interceptor, is in a navy grey 'stealth' colour to surprise would-be pirates.

Trawlercat president and lead designer Captain Graham Pfister believes twenty-ship convoys escorted by five PEVs would be more economical than having four armed security personal on each ship. 

Five PEVs would require only thirty crew to guard twenty ships, compared with eighty for individually guarded ships.  The cost per ship in convoys of up to twenty ships would be a lot less for each ship and five PEVs would provide better coverage due to the high speed and manoeuvrability of the armed and armoured, 20-metre catamarans.

Having made several day and night "convoys" through the Suez Canal himself Captain Pfister is sure that twenty-ship convoys are definitely achievable. The ships would assemble at a rendezvous point in a safe area where they would be met by the PEV Convoy Coordinator, who would form them into three columns and surround them with the five PEVs who would escort them through trouble areas. Read more.

Call to Arms & Actions          

Attacks by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa may have fallen recently, but the barefoot bandits continue to pose a significant threat to international shipping. According to the European Union's anti-piracy naval force, pirates are still holding at least 200 hostages in Somalia or off its coast. Just this week, pirates hijacked an Italian cargo ship with 18 crew on board off the coast of Oman, reports Der Spiegel.

Now the European Union is considering expanding the scope of Operation Atalanta, as the anti-piracy mission is officially known. But the proposal has prompted strong criticism from German opposition politicians, who are wary of mission creep.

On Thursday, the German Foreign Ministry confirmed a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper that the EU's Political and Security Committee had recently assigned Operation Atalanta's commander to draw up plans for how the EU's forces could attack the pirates' onshore infrastructure, as well as revising the rules of engagement accordingly.

The EU is apparently considering ramping up the operation to target the pirates' weapons arsenals, speedboats and fuel depots on the beach. The plan foresees helicopters targeting the infrastructure from the sea. The aircraft would not, however, fire on people. The German Foreign Ministry stressed that the expanded mission would only involve destroying the onshore infrastructure and would not be "an operation on land."

'Sheer Madness'

Until now, the fight against Somali piracy has been restricted to targeting the boats used by pirates. In addition, Atalanta forces track the motherships that pirates use to operate hundreds of kilometers from the coast. The mission also provides escorts to World Food Program vessels delivering food to the Somali people.

The German parliament, the Bundestag, would have to approve a new mandate for Germany's contribution to the mission before Berlin could get involved in onshore operations. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the EU's foreign service will discuss the changes with Somalia's transitional government, which has already signaled its support. The transitional government is backed by the United Nations but has only limited power within the war-torn country.

Opposition politicians in Germany have reacted with skepticism to the idea, however. In remarks to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Rainer Arnold, a defense expert with the opposition center-left Social Democrats, called on the German government to make sure that "no risky undertakings" are planned on the European level. He told the newspaper that he was "very skeptical" about the proposal, explaining that he could not see the logic behind it. The masterminds behind the pirate operations were not "on the beach but in their villas somewhere in the hinterlands," he said. In addition to securing shipping routes, the problem of piracy could only be solved if Somalia were to become a stable country again, he said.

Omid Nouripour, the defense spokesman for the Green Party's parliamentary group, was even more outspoken. He called the idea of targeting the pirates' onshore facilities "sheer madness." He spoke of the danger of mission creep should the pirates retreat further onshore in response to attacks.

The Foreign Ministry gave a cautious reaction to the plan. "Any new orientation of the Atalanta mission will have to be thoroughly examined," said a ministry spokesperson in Berlin. Read more.

The seafaring community, seafarers’ union, ship owners and the trade appear to have reached the end of their tether as a result of the apathy of the Indian administration towards continuing piracy and mere lip service being paid to the plight of the unfortunate hijacked Indian seafarers. The last straw has come by way of the hijack of the Italy-flagged MT Enrico Ievoli which was attacked some 30 nautical miles off the Omani coast probably by Somali Pirates at about 0300 UTC on Dec 27 while the vessel was sailing from Fujairah (UAE) towards the Mediterranean Sea.   

The 138 meters hijacked vessel was carrying about 15,750 metric tonnes of caustic soda. The hijacked seafarers numbering 18 in all onboard comprised 6 Italian, 5 Ukrainian and 7 Indian. The 7 Indian seafarers have been recruited by Andheri (W), Mumbai based Marnavi Shipping Management Pvt. Ltd. on behalf of its principal Marnavi S.P.A, Napoli, Italy.

Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed the hijacking stating that the vessel was off the coast of Oman. He said that situation is being closely watched and declined to provide further details. 

Simultaneously, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant' Agata wrote on his Twitter account that he is following the hijacking of tanker Levoli closely and he intends to maintain a strict confidentiality on the incident to favour a successful conclusion. Agency quoting Domenico Ievoli, the managing director of Marnavi, the ship's Naples-based owner said that the captain of the hijacked vessel, Captain Agostino Musumeci while speaking on Tuesday on phone said that that pirates had boarded his vessel off the coast of Oman and were probably commandeering it towards Somalia. And further added that the condition of all the seafarers is good and they are being treated well by pirates.

Various seafarers’ unions in India have been seeking the intervention of the Director General of shipping and the Government of India to prevent similar incidents taking place. The unabated piracy attack and the Indian seafarers being taken hostage in ever big numbers has got many in the field apprehensive expressing fears of piracy acting as a deterrent to new comers into the sea  career - Maritime Professional.

"While we fully support the anti-piracy operations of the navies, if they are conducted in accordance with the provisions of the UNSC resolutions and with the specific consent of the Somali |Government," Somali member of parliament Hon. Ashareh stated, "we, however, have not given permission to the foreign navies to transfer property from the Somali territory into the hands of the Djiboutian navy." - International News Magazine reports.

The legislator explained: Many of these outboard engines were stolen by the pirate gangs from poor local fishermen or from governmental fisheries projects," and demanded: "All the equipment confiscated by the foreign navies within the waters of Somalia or in connection with the stopping of boats from Somalia must be returned into the hands of the Somali authorities. Anything else is pure theft."

MP Ashareh demanded that the engines be handed back by the Chief of the Djiboutian Navy Colonel Abdourahman Aden Cher to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.

"The Somali sovereignty must be respected by all means," the Somali lawmaker concluded and urged the Somali Foreign Minister to follow up with his counterpart in Djibouti. EUNAVFOR had earlier reported the handover of pirates' outboard motors to the Djiboutian Navy.

China's escort mission in the Gulf of Aden has positively "hacked" at piracy and has "contributed a lot to regional stability", says Somalia's ambassador to Beijing, writes Yan Dong / for China Daily.

China Escort Mission - China Daily
China's Escrot Mission (Phot; China Daily)

Now more international efforts are needed to build peace and stability in Somalia so it can eliminate the piracy that started inland in his country, Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

China and Somalia enjoy a long, historic friendship and shared great achievements, he said.

In three years, Chinese warships have escorted more than 4,300 commercial vessels from China and other countries through the pirate-plagued waters of the Gulf of Aden.

"It was a pity that some economic cooperation was stopped due to the outbreak of the civil war in the 1990s. Now we have great potential in resuming and expanding the relationship. Safe passage at sea could greatly enhance the ties," he said, and could give Somalia more opportunities to resume its economy.

The ambassador said Somalia itself has benefited little from the three years of escort missions, given the turbulence at home. "It is only the countries these ships belong to that benefit from the escort mission. Somalia is fighting piracy for its reputation and international responsibility."

But his government is weak, he said. Read more.

Recently, the 3rd anniversary of Chinese navy escort missions throughout the Somalia seas and near the Gulf of Aden has passed. 

Throughout the course of those three years, 4,380 ships have been escorted and 55 ships have been rescued from emergency situations successfully, reports Maritime Executive Magazine.

While on their 404th mission, the tenth escort team has carried out anti-pirate exercises. This team of 8 cargo ships, escorted again by the Chinese navy, comes from countries including China, Malaysia, and Liberia. On their first mission, only 4 cargo ships were used and now the missions use an average of 10 ships. The Chinese navy states that the international community has widely praised them and foreign ships now trust them based off safety and efficiency.

This particular mission detailed anti-pirate drills. Command headquarters assumed the role of a hijacked ship, and a Special Forces team was created. As a group of fighters approached the ship's blind spot, another group ascended from a hovering helicopter to ambush the hijackers and carry out a detailed search of the ship. 

Officials believe that the escort campaign ensures the safety of ships, as well as their crew and property. The goal is for ships to feel secure with the navy convoy close by.

An attempted hijack of a Saudi oil tanker by unknown pirate boats was foiled after an Iranian fleet of warships present in the region rushed to the scene - FARS News Agecny.

"After the regional center of Chabahar coast guard watch announced last night that a Saudi oil tanker had asked for help due to the suspicious approach of several unknown boats, Jamaran destroyer was dispatched to the area swiftly," Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Navy Rear Admiral Seyed Mahmoud Moussavi told reporters on Monday. 

"After the presence of the destroyer (on the scene), the unknown boats fled the area and the entire region came under the control (of the Iranian Navy forces)," he added. 

Moussavi did not mention the specific coordinates or region of the international waters that the Saudi oil tanker was saved by the Iranian destroyer, but the development has most likely taken place in the Sea of Oman where Iran is presently staging massive wargames. 

Iran's naval forces have deployed in the international waters of the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean after they started massive wargames in the international waters on Saturday. 

The naval manoeuvres dubbed Velayat 90 are due to cover an area stretching from the East of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden for 10 days. Read more.

Eastern and southern Africa and Indian Ocean region countries have initiated a new anti-piracy project with a startup grant of $2 million from the European Union - AllAfrica.com.

The MASE (Maritime Security) project, which has been under development since May 2010, was signed last week by regional economic blocs including Comesa, EAC, Igad and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) in Mauritius.

This is a major development for countries affected by piracy, especially Kenya. In October, the IOC set up Anti-Piracy Unit in Seychelles.

The MASE project is meant to develop national and regional capacities at three levels. First, it will support legal and legislative capabilities to countries willing to prosecute pirates; second, it will assist the region address economic impact of piracy among them the impact of money laundering; and, thirdly, will enable exchange of information to promote maritime security. Read more.

India's Defence Minister AK Antony and his Omani counterpart today signed an agreement to extend bilateral military co-operation for another five years in view of growing piracy incidents inside their maritime borders - Neptune Maritime Security.

The two countries extended the validity of existing bilateral understanding on military cooperation, which was signed in December 2005, for a further period of five years, a defence ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi.

The documents were signed by Antony and his visiting Omani counterpart Badar bin Saud bin Harib al Busaidi.

During the delegation-level talks, both sides noted that bilateral defence cooperation activities have been progressing satisfactorily.

Stating that the visit is an important step in continuing defence and security dialogues between the two countries, Antony noted that piracy incidents were taking place close to the Oman coast and have also been spreading close to the Lakshadweep Islands, the spokesperson said.

Both the ministers stressed the need for continued and concerted efforts of the global community to effectively address the problem, he added.

Saudi Arabia and Ukraine have set out a new vision of bilateral relationship with plans to boost cooperation in different sectors, especially in commerce, defense, agriculture and tourism - Neptune maritime Security.

Riyadh and Kiev have also agreed to coordinate their positions on a range of subjects of common concern, while the two sides have jointly sought to strengthen their fight against piracy at the sea, terrorism, extremism and organized crime. Read more.

The Indian Police Chief in Junagadh, was threatened via telephone by someone claiming to be a Somali pirate in retaliation to the arrest of his fellow pirates by Indian forces. A video from Junagadh News covers the story.

Courtesy of Neptune Maritime Security/YouTube

Piracy Costs                           

Somali pirates have been paid Sh1.7 billion as ransom over the last one year, a maritime official has said, according to Daily Nation.

The Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) Director General Nancy Karigithu said there were at least 219 attacks on ships in the coast of Somalia since last year.

Attributing the information to the International Maritime Bureau, she said that Somali pirates hijacked at least 49 ships and took 1,016 crew as hostages.

Ms Karigithu also revealed that total ransom as at June this year was Sh1.7 billion (US$254 million). There are 14 pirated vessels and 345 hostages awaiting ransom payment.

Mrs Karigithu was making her presentation titled ‘simulation of piracy incidences’ to judges and magistrates attending a maritime law meeting at Leisure Lodge Resort, Diani.

The conference, which was concluded last week, was organized by the KMA and Judicial Training Institute (JTI). 

Somali pirates she said are different and tactful in the way they conduct their operations and are not deterred by the presence of naval forces from the European Naval Forces, Combined Maritime Forces, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) and independent navies of Russia, India, Japan and China among others.

They are the only ones who can hijack a supertanker from the high seas and dock it at their port awaiting ransom. “They have no respect for any ship even if it is carrying dangerous goods,” said the director general.

Piracy, she noted, had become rampant because of poverty and political instability.

Two berths at the Mombasa port will be rehabilitated to accommodate cruise ships as Kenya prepares to increase its earnings from the lucrative tourism segment following improved security off the Somali coast - Business Daily Africa.Welcoming Passengers - Business Daily Africa

The plans were shelved two years ago when piracy attacks cast doubt over the future of the business.

Kenya Ports Authority general manager Khamis Twalib said that Berths 1 and 2 would be rehabilitated at a cost of Sh100 million.

Both berths handle conventional cargo as well as cruise ships, but lack adequate facilities for tourists. This has compromised the quality of services that adventure tourists get compared to other destinations like South Africa.

The MV Silver Wind Nassau recently became the first cruise ship to sail to Mombasa this season, signalling increased confidence by the international community that the Somali coast was safer in the wake of the Kenya-driven Operation Linda Nchi, which has since been absorbed into the African Union’s Amisom force.

“We are in discussions with four cruise ship companies who want to start operations in the region by next year,” said Auni Kanji, managing director of Abercrombie and Kent, the tour operating company that is handling MV Silver Wind Nassau.

The ship carrying 300 passengers, most of them American, and a crew of 200 members will proceed to Madagascar, Mauritius and South Africa after 24 hours stay in Mombasa.

The government has harboured plans to construct a modern cruise terminal since 2006 when it failed to get a strategic investor for the facility in line with the port’s master plan of 2004. Under the plan, the two berths would have been developed into a world class cruise ship bay with restaurants and other service centres. Read more.

Seafarers' Plight                      

A second Indian hostage has died while in the custody of pirates in Harardheere, according to sources amongst the pirates. The deceased hostage was from amongst seven crew members from Panamian-flagged MV Asphalt Venture which pirates released April 28, and now only five are alive, according to pirates.

"He was in serious condition over the last  month and he died this week. Now we are holding only five Indian hostages from the crew of MV Asphalt Venture," one of the pirates holding these hostages told Somalia Report. "He is the second hostage to die, two months before another hostage died," added the pirate.

In October, the group of pirates released a video of the hostages, showing seven Indian hostages alive. Pirates announced that they will hold these Indians hostage until the Indian government releases their pirate friends from jail. This continued capture of Indian and South Koreans is part of a recent tactic by the pirates to hold onto crew members from countries who have significant numbers of pirates in custody or who have been active in anti-piracy measures.

The hijacking of an Italian cargo vessel with seven Indian crew members on board off the coast of Oman by suspected Somali pirates on Tuesday takes the number of Indian seafarers taken hostage in 2011 to nearly 100. Of this, 63 were reportedly released - The Hindu.

Figures from the Ministry of Shipping say that a total of 86 Indian seafarers were taken hostage between January and August in the Somali waters. Of them, 60 were released during the year. To this can be added the 17 Indian crew members of Italian vessel ‘Savina Caylyn,' who were released according to news reports out of Rome early this month. This vessel was hijacked on February 8.

The Ministry had allowed deployment of armed guards on Indian merchant vessels in August and prescribed the best management policy to thwart pirate attacks. Meanwhile, the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre has recorded 199 piracy-related incidents attributed to Somali pirates between January and September. Read more.

And Finally...                             

In a highly non-traditional yet prudent move by Volvo Ocean Race organizers, 5 of the 6 racing yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race were picked up from their Indian Ocean “safe haven” today and are now on their way to the Persian Gulf where they will finish the rest of Leg 2 from Cape Town, South Africa to Abu Dhabi. The 6th boat, Team Sanya, has suffered structural and hardware failures in the first two legs of this race and is currently being repaired in Madagascar in preparation for Leg 3. Includes video - GCaptain.

Piracy Incidents                       


  • Arabian SeaDecember 27 (via NSC) at 0403 UTC in position 18:18N - 057:36E, approximately 215nm ENE of Salalah and 50nm from Duqm Oman, Italian-owned chemical tanker, Enrico Ievoli, was reported under attack by pirates. Vessel was hijacked. Crew consists of 18 including six Italians, five Ukrainians and seven Indians, and the ship is carrying 15,750 tons of caustic soda.

  • Malacca Strait - December 28 (via ReCAAP) Malaysia tugboat Sinhin 5 towing the barge Sinhin 6 enroute from Port Klang to Bintulu, Malaysia was attacked, hijacked and sailed towards Indonesia. OnDecember 31, the tug was located at Belitung Island, Indonesia and nine crew members rescued. The pirates using another tug towed away the barge. The barge with cargo equipment is still missing.

Unsuccessful Attacks (All Regions):

  • South America (P) - December 20 (LATE Report - via IMB) at 2245 LT: in position 02:20.9S - 079:58.9W, Guayaquil Data Pilot Station, Ecuador. An Antigua and Barbuda-flagged container vessel, Ranjan, was boarded by around 12 robbers while underway. The robbers took hostage the bosun, tied his hands, then opened ten containers and stole contents. Crew alerted the port control and the coast guard boarded the vessel for inspection.

  • South America (P) - December 22 (via IMB) at 0400 LT: in position 04:34.2S – 081:18.8W, Talara Anchorage, Peru. Unnoticed robbers boarded an anchored tanker, Overseas Silvermar, and entered the forward store. Alert duty watchman noticed the hawse pipe cover pened and alerted the OOW who raised the alarm. Seeing the crew alertness the robbers escaped empty handed. Incident reported to the Harbour Master through the agents.

  • South China Sea - December 25 - at 0100 LT: in position 01:42.4N – 101:28.6E, Dumai Inner Anchorage, Indonesia. Three robbers boarded an anchored Singapore-flagged chemical tanker, Sichem Contester. They entered the engine room through the engine room sky light door and stole generator spares. The 4th engineer sighted the robbers leaving the engine room and raised the alarm.

  • Malacca Strait - December 25 (via IMB) at 0930 LT: in position 01:10N – 103:39E, Western Boarding Ground ‘B’, Singapore Straits. A Panama-flagged tug, OMS Quest, towing a barge was approached by suspected robbers in boats trying to sell articles. Some of the robbers approached the barge from right astern, boarded and stole properties. Later a Singapore navy ship approached and chased the boats away. When the naval vessel departed, the small boats once again approached the tug and barge but were unsuccessful in boarding.

  • South America (P) - December 27 (via IMB) at 0145 LT: in position 02:21.4S - 079:59.9W, Guayaquil Inner Anchorage, Ecuador. Five robbers armed with long knives boarded a German-flagged container ship, CCNI Guayas, at anchor. They broke open three containers but escaped empty handed due to the alert duty crew. Coast guard informed and a patrol boat sent to investigate.
  • Malacca Strait - December 29 (via IMB) at 0035 LT: Dumai Inner Anchorage, Indonesia. Four robbers armed with knives boarded an anchored tanker, Pacific Apollo, unnoticed and entered the engine room. They took hostage the 2/E and motorman, forced them to open the spares store and tied their hands. The robbers stole ships spares and escaped. The duty crew managed to free themselves and alert the Master.

  • South East Asia - December 30 (via IMB) at 0945 LT: in position 03:30N - 121:04E, Sulu Archipelago (Tawi Tawi Island), Celebes Seas, Philippines. Seven pirates in a small flat-bottomed boat chased and attempted to board a Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier, Yutai Ambitions, underway. The vessel enforced anti piracy measures, rigged fire hoses, increased speed, made evasive manoeuvres and sounded ships whistle resulting in the attack being aborted.

EUNAVFOR figures state 7 vessels and an estimated 200 hostages are held captive. IMB figures show 10 vessels and 172 hostages (as 16 Dec) - neither authority's figures include the Enrico Ievoli capture; and Somalia Report indicates 15 ships (8 commercial & 7 fishing vessels) held with 268 hostages. The latest report contains a list of 34 ships and persons released following ransom payments.

VESSELS ARE REMINDED that the coalition forces' warships may not be in the vicinity of a pirate attack, subsequently, it is emphasised that seafarers can greatly reduce their chances of being pirated if they follow precautions as recommended in the Best Management Practices, increasing speed and carrying out evasive manoeuvres is a proven deterrent to piracy attacks. BMP version 4 is available at the link above; a high resolution version can be downloaded here.

VESSELS ARE ADVISED to exercise extreme caution when navigating in the vicinity of any reported positions of attacks and maintain maximum CPA with any ship acting suspiciously. Additionally, registration of vessel movement with MSC(HOA) prior to transiting the region is recommended. 

Horn of Africa Pirate Activity

OCEANUSLive.org permits the reproduction of this image providing source and link are published (Map ToU)

Any suspicious activity should be reported to UKMTO in Dubai in the first instance (Email UKMTO or Telephone+971 50 552 3215) and on entering the UKMTO Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) bound by Suez, 78E and 15S


Information, Security, Safety; Shared