Somali maritime forces have exchanged gunfire with the hijackers of an oil tanker in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, the head of the maritime force said.
“We tried to intercept a boat that was carrying supplies to the pirates, but pirates on the ship fired on us and so the pirate boat escaped,” said Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the maritime force in the semiautonomous northern region of Puntland.
Pirate Abdulaahi claimed the pirates killed a member of the marine force and injured another, but Hassan said that was untrue.
Residents near the ship confirmed hearing the gunfire.
Gunmen hijacked the small oil tanker Aris 13 on Monday and are demanding a ransom to release the ship and its eight Sri Lankan crew, said the EU Naval Force that patrols the waters off Somalia. It is the first ship to be seized since 2012.
Hassan earlier said they had surrounded the ship, which is docked near the port town of Alula, but had been asked by local elders to give them a chance to convince the hijackers to free the vessel.
The 1,800 deadweight tonne Aris 13 is owned by Panama company Armi Shipping and managed by Aurora Ship Management in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Equasis shipping data website managed by the French transport ministry.
In 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off Somalia’s coast, data from the International Maritime Bureau showed, and took hundreds hostage.
That year aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy estimated the global cost of piracy at about $7 billion. The shipping industry bore roughly 80 percent of those costs, it said.
Attacks fell off sharply, however, after ship owners tightened security and vessels stayed farther away from the Somali coast.