Pirate activity returns to off-coast Somalia

Iranian-flagged fishing vessel Almeraj 1 (MMSI 422170620) has been hijacked by Somali clan militia off Eyl, marking the first pirate activity off the Somalian coastline for many years.

Commercial shipping has been advised to stay outside of Somalian territorial waters because of a danger of what was described at “opportunistic armed robbery”.

It was reported that a ransom demand of $400,000 had been made, along with threats to use the ship for additional hijackings if the payment is not made.

EUNAVFOR ‘s Operation Atalanta would say only that it had received information about the vessel and that it was “actively working to establish the facts”

Maritime security consultants Ambrey said the reason given for the hijacking was that the dhow-type vessel had been fishing illegally. Somalia has strict fishing regulations and no foreign ships can operate within its waters without its approval.

Ambrey said in a note released last Friday November 24th that “the militia claimed they had requested assistance from authorities, which was reportedly not forthcoming, so they took control of the vessel”.

The Almeraj 1 had sailed from Chabahar, Iran, in October. It looked to have conducted intermittent fishing operations within Somali territorial waters over a period of about a month.

Ambrey has described the vessel as a Jelbut-style round-stern dhow with a white and blue superstructure at the stern. It also has two Somali-style white-hulled skiffs with single outboard engines. It said that merchant shipping was advised to avoid the area, to be vigilant in case of a sighting, and to implement counter-piracy Best Management Practices.

The last reported hijacking off Somalia that involved a commercial ship was in 2017 when bulk carrier OS35 became the fifth ship to be attacked within three weeks.