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Piracy in the Gulf of Oman a Misunderstanding?

July 16, 2017 - 11:01:36 UTC

Piracy in the Gulf of Oman a Misunderstanding?

RECENT REPORTS of the return of pirates in the waters of the Gulf of Oman may be somewhat premature.

According to the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre report, an incident involving the Greece-flagged bulk carrier Navios Hios on 7 May 2017, which reported an approach by suspected pirates in a skiff off the Iranian coast - around 12 nautical miles southwest of Bandar E Jask - was said to be “a mere misunderstanding”.

MV Navios Hios Approached off Iran & May 2017 - Image: OCEANUSLive

IMB quoted the Iranian Maritime Safety and Marine Protection Directorate claiming that the “alleged piracy situation” between the Navios Hios and an Iranian fishing vessel off the coast of Chabahar, Iran, was resolved.

The Iranian fishing vessel had reportedly laid fishing nets in the area and had made an approach toward the ship in order to request she diver her route so as to prevent her from destroying the nets as she made transit through them.
The Directorate goes on to say that the ship had misunderstood the approach as a piracy attempt and had subsequently contacted the relevant authorities following the raising of the alarm.

An Iranian naval patrol vessel was immediately deployed to the scene and admonished the fishing vessel for having laid fishing nets in the international shipping route. The fishing vessel was warned of the penalities and potential legal consequences should they repeat their actions in the future.

In reiterating the point, the Directorate expressed their assurance that the situation was “a mere misunderstanding”.
It should be noted that the original report by the Navios Hios stated three suspicious skiffs were sighted with a suspected mothership seen astern at a distance of 2 nautical miles. The report went on to state that the persons in the skiff were holding ladders. The bulk carrier carried out anti-piracy measures, including increasing speed, evasive manoeuvres and contacted port authorities. As the course alterations were conducted, the skiffs and suspected mothership followed. The Iranian Navy contacted the bulk carrier some 20 minutes later informing the Master to alter course, which then saw the skiffs aborting the approach and moving away.

On 11 July, authorities issued a report stating that a container ship had been approached at speed by a skiff with two occupants in the vicinity of two previous incidents reported in May 2017. The ship sounded it’s piracy alarm system but the skiff continued the approach. The embarked armed security team fired three warning shots as the skiff came to within 1 cable (approx 600 feet) distance, after having sighted weapons held by the skiff occupants. The vessel and crew were reported to be safe.

Container ship approached by skiff with weapons 11 Jul 2017 - Image: OCEANUSLive

Whilst the first quarter of 2017 has seen an increase in supposed piracy activity, the incidents have remained in the vicinity of the Somali coastline out to the Gulf of Aden IRTC and the Socotra Gap. A slew of suspicious incidents have occurred in the Red Sea, however, it cannot be categorically classed as involving suspected Somali pirates. The conflict in Yemen continues to spill into the coastal waters. This may also relate to routes used for smuggling of weapons and people.

Incidents occurring in Red Sea between 3 - 5 Jun 2017 - Image: OCEANUSLive

Confirmed reports of Somali piracy occurring near the Iranian coast are thin on the ground. Six approaches and three suspicious activity incidents have been reported in the vicinity since May 2013. Since the commencement of naval patrols to deter Somali pirates began in 2008, the Iranian Navy has been on the outside of the naval forces acting in a loose coalition, therefore, the reach out by the Iranian Maritime Safety and Marine Protection Directorate is an unusual step.

The so-called surge in piracy has not transpired to the level of even 3 years ago and now that the monsoon period has returned, it is unlikely any attempt of note will occur in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean for the time being. However, it is reiterated that vigilance remains the watchword when transiting these areas.

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Information, Security, Safety; Shared

Submitted by Team@oceanuslive.org

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