Back in mid-December 2012, it was reported that the Danish-flagged MV Torm Kristina was sailing to Muscat, Oman, in order to perform a quick logistical port visit, when she was approached by 2 suspect pirate skiffs. The MV was attacked and boarded by pirates who later escaped.
The crew of Torm Kristina, on being attacked, quickly assembled in the citadel and sent a mayday message out, which saw NATO’s Danish warship, Iver Huitfeldt, ordered to leave Muscat during a port visit and proceed at speed to assist the vessel in the Gulf of Oman.
The Danish warship arrived on the scene around three hours later, but the pirates had left the Torm Kristina. It is believed that they saw the warship coming towards them and realised they had no realistic possibility of taking control of the Torm Kristina.
A boarding party from the Iver Huitfeldt boarded the Torm Kristina, searched the ship to ensure that no pirates were still on board and once this was established they freed the crew from the citadel -¬†OCEANUSLive.
The backdrop to this story has become clearer following the boarding of a ‘Vessel of Interest’ on 27 February by the EU flagship ESPS¬†M√©ndez N√∫nez.
The dhow, Al-Hasan, was shadowed by the NATO counter-piracy ship USS Nicholas as it departed the Northern Somali port of Bossasso, which was then monitored by the EU flagship¬†M√©ndez N√∫nez. The Somali-flagged dhow, Al-Hasan, had been placed on a list of suspicious vessels after it was assessed to be related to pirate approach and attack on merchant vessels Liberia-flagged tanker, MV Agistri, and MV Torm Kristina, respectively, in the Gulf of Oman,¬†states EUNAVFOR.
After boarding the vessel, the boarding team officer in charge was informed by the dhow’s Master that they had “been taken hostage by seven pirates shortly after departing the port of Bossasso last year. The pirates then embarked one skiff and a powerful outboard motor, before forcing the crew to sail towards the Gulf of Oman.”
The seven pirates had then proceeded to use the dhow to stage the attack and approach, and undoubtedly, most likely involved in any of the series of approaches and suspect activities reported in December 2012 and January 2013 (See Situational Map above). MV Agistri was approached by the dhow and pirate skiff earlier on 15 December, and the next report on the day was of the attack and boarding, but failed hijack, of MV Torm Kristina. Whether the Pirate Action Group (PAG) was involved in the approach on MV Tsurumi on 20 December is unknown at present, however, the increase in incidents in the Gulf of Oman at a time when many quarters had hailed the success in reducing piracy, these events are a clear reminder that the threat is not yet over.
The pirates are assumed to still be at large and remain a danger to shipping in the region. At this point, their location and area of operations is not reported, if known, however, vigilance with a good lookout and adherence to the recommendations in BMP4 are encouraged. As part of the standing procedures for the HRA, UKMTO¬†(Email¬†UKMTO¬†or Telephone+971¬†50 552 3215)¬†is to be informed of any suspicious activity or approach. IMB remains ready to be informed (Email¬†IMB).
Meantime, OCEANUSLive will continue to support reporting authorities through our information sharing capability that brings together the diverse shipping entities, reporting chains and military authorities, wherever possible.