EU naval force frees vessel from pirates off Somalia


Pirates have tried to hijack a merchant vessel off Somalia, but were beaten back by European warships patrolling the region in the most recent attack this year.

The Liberia-flagged MPP Basilisk was boarded on 23 May by pirates in two small boats while sailing some 700 km southeast of Mogadishu, whilst en route to the United Arab Emirates from Cape Verde.

During the attack, the crew retreated to the citadel and the vessel drifted. The master, who had not retreated to the citadel, was reportedly shot in the arm, but the injury was non-life-threatening.

The Spanish Navy frigate ESPS Canarias (F86), involved in the Chrystal Artic rescue days earlier detached to the European Union Naval Force (EU NavFor) Operation Atalanta tasking responded to the incident and on 24 May confirmed the liberation of the vessel and that its 17 crew were safe.

“Atalanta forces went on board the vessel using the fast-rope technique from the helicopter. During the attack of the suspected pirates, one of the crew was injured. He is in a stable condition and has received medical attention on board by Atalanta medical team,” the EU NavFor reported.

Maritime security firm Ambrey said that due to the crew’s discipline, remaining in the citadel, the pirates were unsuccessful in hijacking the vessel, and left before the military arrived on the scene.

Somali pirates are taking advantage of the turbulent situation around the Horn of Africa – with Houthi rebels in Yemen attacking shipping – to launch hijacking attempts, such as which occurred on 10 May when the Marshall Islands-flagged product tanker Chrystal Arctic was attacked by a skiff with suspected pirates on board while travelling 100 nautical miles north of Bosaso, Somalia. There was an exchange of fire between the ship’s security team and the suspected pirates. Half a dozen pirates were subsequently apprehended by Operation Atalanta naval forces after the failed attack.

According to the European Union Naval Force, there could be two or more pirate action groups (PAGs) operating off the wider Somali coastline, which includes the semi-autonomous Puntland region. Two merchant vessels have already been highjacked since December, of which one was rescued by the Indian Navy (MV Ruen), and the other (MV Abdullah) released with its crew after a ransom was reportedly paid. Several smaller fishing vessels have also been hijacked by Somali pirates.