UKMTO Report, May 17th-23rd

As the Southwest monsoon begins to move its way towards the IOR, UKMTO reports three incidents in the East African HRA for the period May 17th-May 23rd.

As weather conditions deteriorate from June onwards, we can expect to see an increase in the number of suspicious vessel reports in sheltered waters such as the Bab el Mandeb, Southern Red Sea and Gulf of Oman, as local traffic is wrongly identified by merchant ships.

UKMTO report that on May 20th, a MV reported being approached at 0747 UTC in position 12:52.5N-043:12.03E. The skiffs held 3-4 POB and came to within 0.7nm. The skiffs then circled the MV for around 20-30 minutes, but no weapons or ladders were seen in the craft. The MV’s embarked armed security team  showed their weapons and the skiffs moved away.

Later that day, the same vessel reported a further three skiffs approaching at 0827 UTC in position 12:35.3N-043:20.4E. The skiffs came to within 5 cables and again the AST showed weapons, resulting in the skiffs moving away.

On May 21st, a MV reported sighting two skiffs at 0800 UTC in position 24:48.3N-057:41E. One skiff held 4 POB, the other 3. All men had masked faces with one person standing in the bow of each skiff. The skiffs were initially detected at 4nm and continued to be tracked until one skiff approached to within 0.5nm, when the AST fired two warning shots, firing another two at 0.4nm, at which time the skiffs broke away. Again, no piracy equipment was sighted, but the fact that the skiff’s occupants were all masked is unusual and suggests that this was not ‘the pattern of local activity’ as the navies call it.

Both the BAM and Gulf of Oman have seen possible piracy sightings in recent months and, while the Gulf of Oman is an unlikely location for an attack by Somali pirates given the sheer distance from their coast, it’s not entirely impossible (as the owners of the Fairchem Bogey will attest).

The BAM sees significant small boat traffic at the best of times, which allow pirates to hide amongst legitimate traffic. As ever, we caution all mariners to be on alert whilst transiting such high risk locations.