Pirates repelled after firefight off Somalia


Days ahead of a reduced Indian Ocean high risk piracy area (HRA) announcement, the motor vessel (MV) Anatolia was attacked by pirates off Somalia.

The EU NavFor Operation Atalanta joint operations centre in Rota, Spain, was alerted to the then ongoing incident on 13 August. The alert had it a skiff carrying at least four armed men approached the Anatolia, opening fire with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). One of the RPGs caused damage in the vicinity of the bridge.

“After an exchange of fire lasting almost two hours between the assailants and privately contracted armed security personnel on board, the attackers abandoned their intentions and left. There were no injuries on board Anatolia, which continued its transit arriving safely at Mogadishu port,” according to an EU NavFor Atalanta statement.

The reduced Indian Ocean high HRA announcement was made on 20 August by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a division of the International Chamber of Commerce. It is slated to become active on 1 September, next Wednesday, following a reduction in piracy off Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

“The HRA was created at the height of the Somali piracy threat in 2010 to show ship owners, operators and seafarers where pirates operate and where extra vigilance was required to avoid attacks.

“Subsequent updates to the HRA reflected the changing nature of threats in the region as well as more severe security threats, including piracy off West Africa, necessitating a change in how industry assesses such dangers to shipping,” an IMB statement said.

In response to the Anatolia attack, only the second this year off the Horn of Africa, EU NavFor Atalanta pointed out the decline in piracy and robbery at sea off Somalia adding the incident demonstrated these crimes are not eradicated.

The attack on the Anatolia was monitored by EU NavFor Atalanta JOC – Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA), sharing information with UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), from the moment the incident was reported. EU NavFor Atalanta was ready to assist with assets and capabilities in co-ordination with UKMTO and the Combined Maritime Force (CMF).

The Operation noted – gratefully – “no direct intervention was necessary”.

Last month, the IMB said piracy and armed robbery incidents are at the lowest level in 27 years, but risks remain to seafarers.

IMB’s latest global piracy report detailed 68 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships – the lowest total since 1994 – down from 98 incidents in the same period the previous year. In the first six months of 2021, IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre reported 61 vessels boarded, four attempted attacks, two vessels fired on and one hijacked.

Despite the overall decline in reported incidents, violence against crews continues with 50 crew kidnapped, three threatened and taken hostage, two assaulted, one injured and one killed in the first half of 2021.

The Gulf of Guinea remains particularly dangerous for seafarers with 32% of all reported incidents taking place in the region, according to the IMB. The region accounted for all 50 kidnapped crew and the single crew fatality.