A Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker was approached and fired upon by three men in a skiff in the southern Bab-el-Mandeb (BAM) Strait, the Red Sea on May 31, 2017.
Alarm was raised and non-essential crew mustered in the citadel. The onboard armed security team fired warning shots resulting in the skiff moving away, UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) centre notified.
Two warships proceeded to the area to assist the vessel. The vessel sustained damages due to the firing. However, all crew are reported to be safe.
“The vessel’s master reported that his vessel was fired upon by three rocket-propelled grenades, before the assailants broke off the attack. The tanker is now safe and en route to its next port,” EU NAVFOR said in a statement.
The location of the incident is not an area traditionally used by Somali-based pirates to attack merchant ships.
EU NAVFOR added it was currently liaising with naval force partners in the region in order to gather more information and assess the exact nature of the incident.
“EU NAVFOR has not received any information that confirms that piracy-related tripwires/equipment were observed during the attack. This indicates that the incident is more probably related to the continuing instability at sea off the coast of Yemen,” EU NAVFOR Spokesperson, Commander Jacqui Sherriff, commented.
“ That said, masters of merchant vessels transiting the piracy high risk area are reminded to remain vigilant, adhere to Best Management Practices (BMP) and to report any suspicious activity at sea to the UKMTO centre.”