Six suspected pirates nabbed off east African coast


The European Union Naval Force Somalia’s current flagship, the Italian vessel ITS Virginia Fasan, has apprehended six suspected pirates and seized their vessels.

“Six crew of a motor whaler, acting as mother ship, and a skiff were detained following attacks on a 52,000 tonne container ship and a fishing vessel. The events took place over a 24 hour period on November 17 and 18 in the Southern Somali Basin, an area known for piracy incidents,” the EU counter-piracy operation based off the Horn of Africa said in a statement.
“Rocket propelled grenades were fired at both the container ship and the fishing vessel but adherence to BMP4, the latest best management practice; the presence of a security team aboard and good seamanship avoided any damage or injuries,” the statement said adding “all crew and vessels are safe”.

The suspected pirates were apprehended by Italian marines from ITS Virginia Fasan after the pirate vessels were located by Fasan’s NH-90 helicopter, following initial searches by Spanish patrol aircraft currently deployed with the east African maritime task force.

The search for the suspected pirates was co-ordinated with European Union Naval Force (EUNavfor) partners and masters of the vessels attacked. Positive visual identification of the suspected pirates was the final clincher before their arrest.

The legal process for those apprehended to be transferred to the appropriate authorities for prosecution is underway, the EUNavfor said.

EUNavfor points out the rapid and successful response was due to the combined efforts of all involved which saw “maximum synchronisation” of all EUNavfor partners as well as deployed capabilities in the form of warships and aerial assets.

The arrests come just weeks after the UN Security Council pointed out there was a substantial drop in piracy and related attacks of the coast of Somalia this year. It urged seafarers not to drop their guard and to be aware of the dangers of piracy and armed robbery at sea at all times.

In October the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) noted that no incidents were reported off the coast of Somalia in the third quarter of 2017, although successful attacks earlier in the year suggest pirates in the area retain the capacity to target merchant shipping at distances from the coastline.

The IMB said there had been 121 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships reported in the first nine months of the year and that while piracy incidents were down compared to the same period in 2016, there is continuing concern over attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and in south-east Asia.

In total, 92 vessels were boarded, 13 were fired on, there were 11 attempted attacks and five vessels were hijacked in the first nine months of 2017.

Meanwhile, pirates have been active off Nigeria. Earlier this month they released six crew members from the container ship Demeter who were kidnapped off the Nigerian coast on 21 October and held for two and a half weeks.

On 11 November pirates off Nigeria briefly captured ten crew members from a bulk carrier off Bonny Island. According to the International Maritime Bureau, the pirates entered the bridge, stole property off the ship and kidnapped ten crew members before escaping in their boat. Two Nigerian navy vessels intercepted the pirates, rescued the crew and apprehended five pirates.

Several days later, pirates attacked a bulk carrier underway around 15 minutes after its Nigerian Navy security escort boat moved away. Hearing the “Mayday” transmission, the security vessel returned to the bulk carrier and fired on the pirate boat resulting in the pirates aborting. The Nigerian Navy security vessel then escorted the bulk carrier to Bonny Anchorage.