As the South West monsoon approaches and sea conditions in the HRA begin to deteriorate, Somali pirates have once again defied suggestions that they have “gone away” by mounting several attacks over the last few days.
Since Thursday, there have been 10 piracy incidents with at least two confirmed attacks. The most recent incident occurred on May 20th, as the Maritime Liaison Office (MARLO) reports. According to MARLO, the MV Yong Xing, a Hong Kong-flagged general cargo vessel, came under attack by pirates in position 13:11N-048:54E at 1220 UTC.
The report states that 12 suspected pirates in two skiffs (one yellow and one blue) approached the MV Yong Xing on its port side. At a range of 3nm, the ship contacted coalition warships on VHF Ch.16. The skiffs continued their attempt to attack the Yong Xing and, as they came within 500 metres, having exhausted all non-lethal deterrents, the embarked armed security team fired three warning shots. At this point, the skiffs broke off their attack.
This incident, along with nine others, demonstrates that pirates have not simply “gone away”, as has been suggested by some media outlets. Whilst their capabilities have been greatly reduced thanks to the presence of coalition warships and their success rates slashed thanks to the increased use of armed guards, opportunist pirates are still in evidence in the region. The balance between pointing out the continuing threat versus scaremongering is a fine one but, under-reporting of incidents and the pirates’ new tactic of making ‘soft approaches’ on merchant ships to establish any security arrangements means that there is now even disagreement over the reported figures. This incident reinforces the fact that the danger to shipping in the HRA continues, as NATO SC and EU NAVFOR have pointed out, and that any attempt to declare the situation over is premature.