Hijacked merchant vessel Abdullah at anchor off Somalia, crew apparently safe


At least 12 alleged pirates are confirmed by Operation Atlanta personnel to be aboard the hijacked bulk carrier Abdullah, now at anchor some 600 nautical miles east of the Somali capital Mogadishu.

The European Union (EU) naval task force, whose area of operations (AoO) includes the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, was the “first actor” to respond to the hijacking of the vessel, according to a Wednesday statement it released.

An update yesterday (Thursday) has it visual information from the merchant vessel “shows at least 12 confirmed alleged pirates on board the ship although the initial alert of the hijack pointed at a group of 20 armed people” adding it’s possible those onboard the Abdullah could be the same group responsible for the MV Ruen hijacking in December.

“There is a realistic possibility MV Ruen is being used as a mothership to conduct additional pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea,” said Martin Kelly, Head of Advisory at UK-based EOS Risk Group. “It is also likely that the dhow used as a mothership to board Abdullah Remains at sea.”

Atalanta reports no change onboard the Bangladeshi owned and flagged bulk carrier with the 23 crew seemingly safe and “the action still ongoing”.

“Three camps of alleged pirate groups have been identified in different areas in the north, centre and south of [the] Somali coast. From these camps they support hijacking operations,” the EU Naval Force reported.

The Spanish headquartered European bloc naval operation said it is maintaining contact with Bangladeshi and Somali authorities and its maritime security partners in the area of operations to co-ordinate the most efficient action against the pirates.

The Abdullah was seized by armed pirates on Tuesday. The ship was sailing from Maputo in Mozambique to Al Hamriyah in the United Arab Emirates with 58 000 tonnes of coal.

Multiple incidences of piracy off the Horn of Africa have been recorded this year. In January, the Indian Navy foiled two hijackings by Somali pirates within days, rescuing two Iranian-flagged fishing vessels.

Also in January, the Seychelles’ government said its defence forces and coast guard had rescued six Sri Lankan fishermen whose vessel had been hijacked by Somali pirates about 840 nautical miles southeast of Mogadishu.

The hijackings off Somalia have raised concerns about a resurgence of Indian Ocean piracy by opportunistic pirates taking advantage of naval forces focussing on defeating attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Houthi attacks in the Gulf of Aden continue at an almost daily basis, with one vessel (the MV Rubymar) sunk, and two seafarers killed in another attack. Several vessels have this year been hit by Houthi missiles.