Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Yemen Pirate Attack Seen Off by Bulk Tanker Security Team

Flares Fired to Deter Would be Hijackers
Shipping News Feature
RED SEA – YEMEN – A report has come in from Stena Bulk that the 50,000 dwt oil/chemical tanker Stena Imperial was approached by pirates on Saturday 3 November whilst passing west of Yemen through the Red Sea transiting to Rotterdam via Suez. Two suspicious skiffs were found approaching Stena Imperial from the port side at a distance of 1.5 Nautical Miles. The alarm was raised and the Master and the on board security team mustered on the bridge. Hand flares were fired towards the skiffs as a warning as they were approaching toward the vessel.

Both skiffs ceased their approach after the flares were fired from the vessel and passed by the stern. One of the skiffs which passed astern again tried to approach the vessel one more time and once again hand flares were fired. The skiff then slowed down and moved towards another vessel.

In the meantime the ship’s Master contacted a nearby warship and sent a general alert. The attack is actually a bit of an anomaly as would be hijackers in the Gulf of Aden have been dissuaded by both the cruising forces (and explosive actions) of EU NAVFOR and other naval activity in the region. Also the continuing military activity as the Saudi led coalition forces battle for control of the port of Hodeidah must be somewhat of a deterrent. At the time of writing the port is still open and working but attacks have been intensified in the past 48 hours.

Stena Bulk was keen to point out that it chiefly employs professional security firms, and the team comprises of well-educated former soldiers. Normally there are 3-4 people in each team on board the ships passing through a high risk area. Today the company says the areas where guards are present on board are off the coasts of Yemen and Nigeria. It stresses the team is not allowed to use its weapons unless the captain has approved. The guards always follow the captain’s orders, but in situations like this they of course provide their professional advice, on which the captain then bases his decisions. Erik Hånell, CEO of Stena Bulk elaborated:

“The crew on board the Stena Imperial acted in a very professional manner during the incident and worked closely with the security team to resolve the situation as safely as possible. We put a very high value on our crew and always make sure that they are provided the proper training to be able to handle all sorts of situations in a calm and professional way. A well trained crew working together with a security company when transiting these areas also makes us as owners feel secure about their safety on board.

”On the whole the pirate situation in the Gulf of Aden has calmed down and there have not been any hijackings for a long time. But when we sail off the coast of Yemen we choose to use guards due to the lawless state prevailing in the country at the moment. This has created the same kind of desperation in the population as we saw in Somalia a number of years ago. But we are monitoring the situation closely via our security department, which also keeps an eye on the situation in general on the global level. For us it is extremely important to take the measures that are required so that the crew feel safe, and that we at the same time follow the local regulations.”