Tanker hijacked off Somalia coast
MOGADISHU: Pirates have hijacked an oil tanker off the coast of Somalia, local officials and an expert said yesterday, the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel on the crucial global trade route since 2012.
The reported seizure on Monday of the Aris 13 came as a surprise to the global shipping industry as patrols by the navies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries, as well as China, India and Iran, had suppressed Somali pirate hijackings for several years.
However, the United Nations warned in October that the situation was fragile and that Somali pirates “possess the intent and capability to resume attacks”.
The tanker, manned by eight Sri Lankan sailors, was carrying fuel from Djibouti to Somalia’s capital when it was approached by men in two skiffs, said Oceans Beyond Piracy director John Steed.
An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, in the semiautonomous state of Puntland said more than two dozen men boarded the ship off Somalia’s northern coast, an area known to be used by weapons smugglers and members of the al-Qaedalinked extremist group, alShabab.
Piracy off Somalia’s coast had lessened after an international effort to patrol near the country. In that time, concerns about piracy off Africa’s coast had largely shifted to the Gulf of Guinea. But frustrations had been rising among local fishermen, including former pirates, at what they said were foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters.
Salad Nur, a local elder, said the ship was anchored off the town of Alula yesterday. He said young fishermen, including former pirates, had hijacked the ship.
“They have been sailing through the ocean in search of a foreign ship to hijack since yesterday morning and found this ship and boarded it,” he said.
“Foreign fishermen destroyed their livelihoods and deprived them of proper fishing.”
An official with knowledge of the incident, who did not want to be named, said no ransom demand had been made.
A Britain-based spokeswoman for the European Union Naval Force operation off Somalia, Flight-Lieutenant Louise Tagg, said an investigation was underway. The United States Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain and oversees anti-piracy efforts in the region, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A UN shipping database shows that Aris 13 is owned by Armi Shipping SA, whose address is listed in care of Aurora Ship Management FZE, a company based in Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. AP