Piracy approaches continue to rise in Gulf of Oman

By Madhuparna Bhattacharjee


A series of piracy-related incidents were reported during the third quarter of this year in the Gulf of Aden from the Northeast Somali coastline, up along the Omani coast, according to OCEANUSLive, a maritime sharing platform.

UK’s Dryad Maritime’s recently released Q3 maritime crime figures also show that piracy is continuing to rise across the globe at similar levels as compared to Q2.

Ian Millen, Dryad Maritime’s chief operating officer said, “The southwest monsoon period in the Horn of Africa, the high wind speeds and waves in excess of five metres in the Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden has precluded Somali piracy operations. However, the monsoon conditions have not affected the Southern Red Sea and the Sea of Oman.”

Millen said that with calm seas forecast over the next few months, conditions will be more favourable for pirate operations. “However, a lack of funding, equipment and manpower is likely to limit the number of Pirate Action Groups at sea.”

Speaking to Muscat Daily, Glen Forbes, a former Royal Navy officer and founder of OCEANUSLive, said, “There were incidents reported in August and September in the Sea of Oman.”

He revealed that one incident was reported on September 25. “Another incident reported on August 12 was considered mistaken identity; Omani fishermen reported the probable sighting, although the incident remains noted as a suspicious incident by most reporting authorities,” said Forbes.

He added that a matter of concern during Q3 has been the reports of a number of skiffs – between four to nine skiffs – closing on merchant vessels in the Bab al Mandeb (BAM) area.

Elaborating on the piracy-related activities in the region, Forbes said, “In all there were 22 reported incidents with 20 incidents which were suspicious in nature. On July 7, a Kenyan cargo ship heading for Mombasa got stranded close to the Somali shore as locals tried to loot the goods. Another incident on September 8 is believed to have been an instance of human trafficking in the Gulf of Aden.

“Meanwhile, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has issued new guidelines defining high risk areas and benefits due to seafarers that apply to the Internationally-Recognized Transit Corridor (IRTC) within the Gulf of Aden, he said. The resolution became effective on October 1, 2014 and it reclassifies the status of Gulf of Aden from ‘high risk’ to ‘extended risk’.”

Additional compensation will only apply if the vessel is subject to a confirmed attack, according to the agreement.

Forbes said that despite the amount of suspicious activity reports, no reports of a direct attack on any ship was issued during Q3. “The increase of masked skiffs in the BAM is a concern and the unknown perpetrators of approaches in the Sea of Oman and Arabian Gulf raise questions as to how protection against the actions of such unknown actors can be established,” he added.

Incidents reported in Q3

August 12: India-flagged product tanker sent a distress signal reporting three suspicious skiffs in the Sea of Oman. Three skiffs chased the vessel with one skiff coming to within 50m but no shots fired. Skiffs aborted chase; tanker resumed passage.

August 16: Merchant Vessel (MV) was approached by two skiffs in the Sea of Oman. One skiff with four POB (Pirates on Board) another with two POBs closed in. Weapons fired into water. Vessel safe.

September 4: MV approached by three grey and orange-hulled speed boats in the Arabian Gulf. Skiffs approached the vessel to within 1.2nm. Each boat contained two POB in black clothes, and reportedly were armed with a machine-gun partially covered by a tarpaulin. The master conducted evasive manoeuvres whilst being followed for 5¨C10 mins, after which the boats headed in a westerly direction. Vessel and crew safe.

September 5: MV approached by three white-hulled skiffs, approx 45nm in the Sea of Oman. Skiffs came to within 0.6nm. The skiffs carried two or three POB wearing green or black clothes. The vessel operated hoses and the skiffs departed in a northerly direction. Vessel and crew safe.

September 25: Merchant Vessel (MV) reported being approached to within 20m astern by one skiff at speed, Strait of Hormuz. Weapons were alleged to have been sighted plus rope and hook. MV alerted vessels in the vicinity, applied self protection measures, skiff broke off; incident lasted for 1.5 hrs. Vessel and crew safe.

Via: http://www.muscatdaily.com

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