11 April 2017

Pirate Attacks off Somali and Yemen Coasts See More Cargo Ships Targeted  

Ransom Fears for Abducted Crew Members Taken From Hijacked Vessel

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Shipping News Feature SOMALIA – YEMEN – With reports of Somali forces recovering the Indian-owned commercial vessel, the Al Kausar and two of her crew following her seizure earlier this month, news comes of an yet another attack, this time thwarted by international counter-piracy naval forces operating in the Gulf of Aden. The past few weeks have seen a resurgence of pirate related activity off the coast of Somalia, after a five-year lull which saw incidents all but stop with the help of naval patrols, private security guards, and increased self-protection measures.

The Al Kausar had been seized by Somali Pirates on April 1, along with her crew of 11 men, as she made her way to Kismayo, Somalia. According to local reports, local security forces have recovered the vessel south of Hobyo, in the Galmudug region, over the weekend. The pirates had apparently abandoned the boat after local elders warned that security forces were approaching with the intent of rescuing the ship and her crew.

The pirates reportedly abandoned the boat with authorities believing that the remaining nine crewmembers were moved to shore. It is anticipated that the pirates intend to use the sailors as bargaining chips to negotiate the release of over a hundred pirates who have been jailed in India, or possibly to demand a ransom.

On April 8, a Lebanese registered cargo ship, the MV OS-35 had been seized by suspected armed pirates, marking the sixth attack in just under a month. Naval forces became aware of the attack after ship's master sent out a mayday alert at around 1310 UTC to say that armed men had climbed on board his ship. The 19 Filipino crew members were able to secure themselves in a safe room, known as a citadel, after shutting off the engines. According to reports, the 21,000 tonne bulk carrier OS-35 had been sailing approximately 120 kilometres from the coast of Yemen, on her way to the Port of Aden, Yemen, from Port Klang, Malaysia, when she was boarded.

Following close coordination between the Chinese and Indian navies, a team from a Chinese warship, the Yulin, a multi role frigate of the 054A/Jiangkai II class, boarded the OS-35 and freed the crew on April 9 at around 0430 UTC, as the Indian Navy provided helicopter support. Indian forces are doubtless disgruntled that, despite the fact the Navy had scrambled four vessels to deal with the incident and that the pirated vessel was tracked from the outset by Indian helicopter support, hardly a mention of that country’s involvement has been referred to in Chinese reports.

In fact vessels from the Pakistani and Italian navies were also on alert for the OS-35 which was found firstly by India’s INS Mumbai, a guided missile destroyer, and our Indian Navy photograph shows the Yulin, with a small skiff in support, moving in on the stolen bulk carrier.

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