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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Somali Pirates: NATO's Recent Updates

NSC | Daily Piracy Update:
A merchant vessel was attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Oman (GOO), 2435N 05734E, at 1540 hrs UTC on 15 Dec. All crew were able to take refuge in vessel's citadel. Pirates were not able to penetrate the citadel and did not remain on board. This vessel avoided being hijacked and is now safe. This Pirate Action Group (PAG) is assumed to still be in the area.

On 15 Dec at 0420 hrs UTC, in the GOO (2409N 05904E), a merchant vessel was approached by a white skiff with 5-6 persons on board. The skiff had been launched from a mother dhow. The skiff came within 0.2 nm of the vessel and ladders and weapons were reported. The vessel's armed security team fired warning shots and the skiff moved away. The vessel is now safe. This may have been the same PAG as the recent incident above, as both these incidents occurred in the same area on the same day.

In addition to the incidents above, the NATO Shipping Centre has identified two other areas of concern on our PAG map. One is in the Indian Ocean, far off the Somali Coast. The other is in the northern Arabian Sea just off the central coastal area of Oman. Reports have indicated a possible increase in pirate activity in these two areas. This second area of concern may be related to the two incidents above as they are all in the northern Arabian Sea/GOO.

Despite deterioration in conditions associated with the approaching Northeast monsoon, sea states remain conducive to piracy operations. Merchant vessels are advised to remain vigilant throughout the High Risk Area (HRA) and ensure that Self Protection Measures are in place, as PAGs continue to operate in the area.

Recently, PAGs have also made “soft-approaches” on merchant ships transiting the HRA. A skiff will often approach a vessel to probe the reactivity of an embarked security team (if present). If they elicit no response, the pirates may proceed with an attack, sometimes accompanied by a second skiff. This practice would seem to allow pirates to avoid needless expenditures of ammunition and personal risk without a significant probability of success.

A large number of fishing vessels also operate in the South Red Sea (SRS), the Bab-Al-Mandeb (BAM) and up to 50 nm off the west coast of India. Fishing vessels may approach a merchant ship to maximize fishing opportunities or to safeguard fishing nets. Fishing off India is generally carried out using long lines by mechanized or single-hull boats which typically have outboard motors and carry 4-6 crew members. Masters are requested to ensure that they distinguish between fishing vessels and potential pirates; fishermen may carry small arms.

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