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A number of incidents in recent weeks has underlined the fact that the threat from Somalian piracy is far from over. Over the course of the past month, there has been a rise in the number of attacks and suspicious approaches in the Gulf of Aden, Southern Red Sea and Bab-el Mandeb straight. “None of the incidents have resulted in ransom payments being made, although they underscore the continued vulnerability of vessels transiting the High Risk Area, particularly for those that fail to implement effective counter-piracy measures,” says Kateryna Yakunchenkova, General Manager of Dubai-based Al Safina Security (ALSS).

On 13th March 2017, Somali pirates hijacked the Aris 13, a Comoros-flagged oil tanker en route to Mogadishu from Djibouti, marking the first seizure of such a large commercial vessel since 2012. The Aris 13 reported that two skiffs had approached it with weapons sighted on one of the boats. The Aris 13 had been attempting to pass through the Socotra Gap, a route between Ethiopia and the island of Socotra in Yemen when it was boarded by the pirates. The route is often used by vessels traveling along the east coast of Africa as a shortcut to save time and money. The European Union Naval Force reported that pirates had demanded an undisclosed ransom for the vessel’s return. But it was later confirmed that the boat and its eight crew members had been released due to the efforts of the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF). The entire crew is reported unharmed.

Mrs. Yakunchenkova says, “We see ship owners have become less wary of piracy, and some have started using the riskier Socotra Gap route to save time and money. Today we can see the serious outcome from this approach.”

On March 31, the dhow Al Kausar and its cargo of rice and wheat were hijacked en route from Dubai to Yemen. Its 11 Indian sailors were taken hostage; two of the crew were subsequently rescued from a car that the pirates abandoned in a chase, while the other nine are still missing. In a third incident the dhow Casayr II was taken on 24th March and was believed to be operating as a mother ship off Socotra Island. It was released after the pirates took food and diesel.

A Pakistan-owned cargo vessel Salama 1 has also recently been hijacked by Somali pirates, while on 8th April a cargo ship OS-35, flying the flag of Tuvalu, was attacked by pirates while heading from Port Kelang to Aden, Yemen. The hijack attempt was foiled due to timely rescue operations mounted by international maritime forces in the vicinity. The crew reportedly retreated to the onboard citadel after activating an alert system.

Amid these piracy incidents, India’s Directorate General of Shipping issued a maritime security advisory recommending all vessels to avoid transiting the Gulf of Aden, keeping a safe distance of at least more than 200 nautical miles from the coast.

“These pirate incidents demonstrate the importance of continually pursuing the anti-piracy defence line,” Mrs. Yakunchenkova commented. “In light of the recent activity, the critical importance of staying vigilant at all times passing the High Risk Area, route risk assessment planning, and compliance with BMP4, the implementation of which has been shown to be effective in protecting vessels and crews, cannot be understated. The threat of Somali piracy has never been eradicated.”

Al Safina Security advises clients to fill in the ship security review in compliance with the company’s ISO/PAS 9001:2008, 28007:2013 and 28007-1:2015 standards. It also advises: Conducting voyage-specific risk assessments; avoiding the practice of using the Socotra Gap as a short cut; increasing watch keeping, lookouts and bridge manning; installing sufficient hardening facilities; training ship staff in anti-piracy drill, and the use of appropriately trained and competent Private Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP), the deployment of which should not be a substitute, but a supplement to effective compliance with the BMP4 guidelines.

Mrs. Yakunchenkova concludes, “In such a maritime security climate, it is imperative to adhere to existing counter-piracy measures to strengthen the security of commercial shipping. Partial compliance with the recommended procedures, as well as a reduction in precautions taken by shipping companies, can result in successful attacks, as we can see has happened lately. “


Briefing Room

Somalia welcomes 41 nationals released from Indian jails, more to follow



The Federal Government of Somalia on Friday welcomed home forty-one nationals who had been in Indian jails for piracy related offences.

The returnees were welcomed at the Mogadishu International Airport by Prime Minister Ali Hassan Khayre and other government officials.

A Voice of America journalist, Harun Maruf said the former detainees were released after negotiations between the two countries.

He added that: “They were part of 120 Somalis arrested by India navy after being suspected of involvement in piracy acts, some have served their jail terms.” Two of them are said to have died in prison.

The Prime Minister later wrote on Twitter that the government will continue to do all it takes to return Somalis languishing in jails outside the country. Reports indicate that 77 others will be freed in the coming months.

The Somali government in 2017 secured the release of over twenty of its nationals held in neighbouring Ethiopia’s jails.

The government was also instrumental in the release of a top Somali journalist who was jailed in Ethiopia.

The Mohammed Abdullahi Farmaajo government, however, attracted public outrage by handing over a Somali national to the Ethiopian government.

A move that was slammed by Somalis and by human rights groups who claimed Mogadishu had virtually handed him over to be tortured.

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What is happening to Africa’s pirates?



MODERN African pirates prefer machetes, machineguns and ransoms to cutlasses and parrots. They can make millions of dollars from one captured ship.

Ten years ago Somalia’s coast was the centre of the maritime-hijacking world. The country lacked a coastguard or functioning state machinery, which allowed heavily armed pirates to sail up to huge cargo vessels in speedboats before boarding and taking crew and ship hostage. But 2017 was not a good year for buccaneers.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which monitors crime at sea, global piracy and robbery at sea dipped to their lowest points in over two decades. So what is happening to Africa’s pirates?

The peak years of the Somali piracy crisis were 2007 to 2012. Attacks across the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea took place nearly daily. In 2011 there were 237 attacks in the region, reportedly costing businesses and insurers $8.3bn (£5.1bn). Recently, however, Somali piracy has plummeted.
According to the IMB, just nine vessels were hijacked off the Somali coast last year. This is in part because regional security has improved dramatically. The Gulf of Aden leads to the Suez canal, through which roughly 10% of global trade flows. After scores of kidnaps and hijackings, the world launched a huge naval anti-piracy effort in 2008.

For the first time since the second world war, all five permanent members of the UN Security Council deployed forces together, with the aim of countering the threat and patrolling the Somali coastline. Along with the introduction of armed guards, barbed wire and evasive-manoeuvre training on merchant ships, this campaign has slashed the number of successful boarding incidents off Somalia, according to Henry MacHale at Aspen Insurance.

Somali pirates may have hung up their Kalashnikovs for now, but on the other side of Africa, piracy off the Nigerian coast is increasing. In 2017, 33 incidents of piracy and robbery at sea, successful or otherwise, were reported within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.

In 2011 there were ten. Ultra-violent Nigerian pirates armed with heavy machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades are often behind the attacks. Somali pirates usually board vessels, then drop anchor and hold them until they get ransom money.

Nigerian pirates are different. They move fast, take part in ferocious gun-battles and snatch victims off ships before retreating into the Niger Delta’s maze of rivers, where it is very difficult for security forces to find them.

The number of kidnappings is also sky-high. According to the IMB, 65 of the 75 crew members kidnapped in 2017 were taken in or around Nigerian waters.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, which stretches from Gabon to Liberia, has not reached the levels it did off Somalia. But Cyrus Mody from the IMB suggests that the figures underplay the danger.

The IMB’s data do not include attacks on fishing craft or ferries, which are certainly being terrorised by the pirates. Additionally, it seems likely that operators are not reporting some incidents.

“Over the years [the Nigerian pirates] haven’t been arrested or prosecuted it seems,” says Mr Mody. “Ship owners have lost trust in the system.” By reporting an incident they risk suffering violent attacks on their ships in future. So they stay quiet.

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Briefing Room

Piracy, armed robbery against ships falls to two-decade low: report



NAIROBI – A total of 180 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery were reported in 2017, the lowest annual number of incidents since 1995 when 188 reports were received, a global maritime body said on Wednesday.

The latest report released in London by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reveals that pirates boarded 136 vessels in 2017, while there were 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six vessels hijacked.
Despite the fall, the global maritime body cautioned foreign vessels/masters not to be complacent as they transit the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

“Although the number of attacks is down this year in comparison with last year, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters around Nigeria remain a threat to seafarers. The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents helping to prevent incidents from escalating,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB.

According to IMB, in 15 separate incidents, 91 crew members were taken hostage and 75 were kidnapped from their vessels in 13 other incidents. Three crew members were killed in 2017 and six injured.
In 2016, a total of 191 incidents were reported, with 150 vessels boarded and 151 crew members taken hostage.
The report also called on shipmasters to follow the industry’s Best Management Practices and continue to remain vigilant as they sail through waters off Somalia.

The report said nine incidents were recorded off Somalia in 2017, up from two in 2016. In November, a container ship was attacked by armed pirates approximately 280 nautical miles east of Somali capital Mogadishu.
The pirates, unable to board the vessel due to the ship’s evasive maneuvering fired two RPG rockets, both of which missed, before retreating.

The IMB said six Somali pirates were subsequently detained by European Union Naval Force, transferred to the Seychelles and charged with “committing an act of piracy” where they face up to 30 years’ imprisonment, if convicted.
“This dramatic incident, alongside our 2017 figures, demonstrates that Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to launch attacks against merchant vessels hundreds of miles from their coastline,” Mukundan said.
According to IMB, there were 36 reported incidents in the Gulf of Guinea last year with no vessels hijacked in this area and 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crew members in or around Nigerian waters. Globally 16 vessels reported being fired upon — including seven in the Gulf of Guinea.

The drop in piracy incidents is however a relief to shipping companies using the Indian Ocean that had in previous years been the target of pirates, often paying heavy ransom to secure release of their vehicles and the crew.
The African maritime industry, along the Indian Ocean had until 2013 been greatly affected by piracy that raised the costs of shipping as insurance companies and private ship security companies increased their premiums to mitigate the risks.

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