Pirates in speedboats hijacked a Greek bulk carrier with 19 crew members off eastern Somalia, a piracy watchdog official said Monday.More on the change of pirate tactics here:
Sunday's hijacking pushes the number of attacks this year in Somali waters close to 60, with pirates raiding ships off eastern Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden flanking the country's northern coast despite U.S.-led patrols.
Four pirates in three speedboats hijacked the Greek ship, which was flying a Bahamas flag and traveling to Europe, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.
He could not say whether the crew members were harmed and declined to say where they were from or what the ship was carrying.
Hours earlier, three pirates in a speed boat fired machine guns at an Iranian crude oil carrier in the same area, Choong said. The tanker escaped after a 30-minute chase, and no casualties were reported, he said.
"The pirates have now started to attack ships off the eastern coast again ... It's not good," Choong said. "The eastern coast of Somalia is an open sea. It's so wide. It may be more difficult to control, to patrol."
There have been 59 attacks in Somali waters since January, and 13 ships with more than 300 crew remain in pirates' hands, Choong said.
Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre, said the change in tactics increased the problems facing the multinational task force patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
"As we advise the ships to sail further from the shore, the pirates are also doing the same. Now pirates are attacking on two fronts, it will be more difficult for coalition forces to patrol two areas effectively," he told AFP.
Choong said the heavily armed attackers were now operating simultaneously in the Gulf of Aden and on the eastern coast of Somalia and extending their range by operating from larger vessels.
"Pirates are now venturing 200 nautical miles or more from shore to attack and hijack ships. They are using a mother ship which could be a big boat like an ocean-going trawler, from where they launch smaller boats to attack ships."