Following the attack on a British managed merchant vessel on Friday in the Somali Basin, the UK’s leading maritime intelligence provider, Dryad Maritime Intelligence has renewed their calls for heightened vigilance, stating that just one successful hijack and holding to ransom of a large merchant vessel could revive Somalia’s maritime criminal infrastructure.
The British managed merchant vessel (MV), ‘Island Splendor’ was attacked by two skiffs approximately 230NM WSW of Hobyo on Friday. Initial warning flares from the embarked security team failed to deter the pirates who continued to close the tanker. Although the private maritime security company managed to repel the attack, the pirates returned fire before backing down.
Friday’s attack is the first report of an MV coming under small arms fire since the end of the Southwest Monsoon season in the Indian Ocean; a seasonal feature which results in a cessation of pirate activity in open ocean areas. It is also the first large merchant vessel to be fired upon since April 2013. No less than four days later on Monday of this week, a second vessel was attacked just 270NM East of the attack on the merchant vessel, leading Dryad Maritime Intelligence to assess that the attackers came from the same Pirate Action Group (PAG).
Ian Millen, Director of Intelligence, Dryad Maritime Intelligence said: “Despite the pressure applied by coalition forces and the assessed depletion of pirate resources, there was a likelihood that we would see a break out of a PAG into the sea lanes and that the hijack and ransom of a single large merchant vessel would be all it would take to feed the infrastructure of the Somali pirate criminal enterprise. Following Monday’s report, it would appear that the attack on two vessels in the space of four days confirms that the Somali pirate business model is not yet broken. Continued vigilance and strict adherence to BMP measures in all areas are the keys to success in keeping vessels safe”.
Although Dryad Maritime predicted a resurgence in piracy activity at the end of the Southwest Monsoon season, following the return of favourable sea conditions to the open oceans of the Somali Basin, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, these incidents signal the first Somali moves in the post-Monsoon pirate season.
Ian Millen, Director of Intelligence, Dryad Maritime Intelligence further stated: “Although there have been significant numbers of reports of suspected pirate activity during the SW Monsoon period, especially in the waters of the Gulf of Aden and Bab el Mandeb strait, we have not considered these to be pirate related and have more likely been interaction with local traffic and fishermen. We do, however, continue to encourage all vessels and their embarked security teams to report their concerns, whilst encouraging them to understand normal patterns of behaviour to avoid tragic consequences for themselves or for the many innocent seafarers they encounter. The incident with Island Splendor last Friday is a classic example of where vigilance and a professional response paid dividends in preventing what could have been the first real pirate success of 2013.”
At the time of writing, the fate of the fishing vessel attacked on Monday remains unknown. However, the latest information available to Dryad Maritime Intelligence suggests that the PAG involved in the attacks has been disrupted by coalition naval forces.
Dryad Maritime, October 16, 2013