On¬†August 12th, the Harbour Master of Fujairah Port, Oman, issued an alert to state that the MT Bon Atlantico had been ‚Äòattacked‚Äô by pirates off Fujairah. The incident occurred in position 25:09N-057:03E. This was quickly picked up by a number of private maritime security companies who issued similar reports.
Given the location, quite a distance in to the Gulf of Oman, eyebrows were immediately raised. The Gulf of Oman doesn‚Äôt see much in the way of pirate activity, generally. There have been some incidents with suspected Iranian elements, as was seen in May this year when shots were fired at the bridge of the MT Album, although this occurred in the Strait of Hormuz rather than the GoO.
In yesterday‚Äôs incident, AIS showed that the tanker was underway and in close proximity to other MVs, which immediately suggested a false alarm rather than a genuine ‚Äòattack‚Äô. This was later confirmed by the Indian Coast Guard, who said that three skiffs had chased the tanker, with one skiff approaching to 50 metres. While guns were seen in the vessel, this doesn‚Äôt prove very much; many local fishermen are armed in order to ward off pirates themselves.
At this stage, the incident is being classed as a false alarm, or a suspicious approach at best.
Intelligence provider, Risk Intelligence, Tweeted the following:
It is unknown whether the MT Bon Atlantico was transiting with an armed security team on board. The issue of private maritime security companies ‚Äòtalking up‚Äô the threat at sea is clearly a thorny one and the statistics do rather speak for themselves, making PMSCs a victim of their own success to a certain extent. At present, with the SW monsoon still making its presence felt, reports from East Africa are few and far between. The combination of the weather, the work done by the naval coalition and the very presence of armed teams on board merchant ships has done much to suppress piracy in the region, which is currently at an all time low. However, it‚Äôs also acknowledged that the threat still remains due to the fact that the root causes of piracy have yet to be addressed on land in Somalia itself.