Somali pirates on Friday hijacked a boat for the second time in two weeks, and local authorities believe they plan to use this one as a mothership from which to attack larger boats further offshore.
The small fishing vessel is only the second boat seized in the region since 2012, thanks to aggressive anti-piracy efforts there. The first of the two, an Emirati oil tanker named Aris-13, was taken last week and abandoned four days later without the pirates collecting ransom. They claimed to have abandoned the ship after learning the boat had been hired by prominent Somali businessmen, but not before a gun battle with authorities that left four civilians injured.
“After we came to know that the Somali traders hired the oil tanker, we released it without a ransom,” one pirate told Reuters.
In the most recent hijacking, the pirates reportedly dumped some of their crew on shore and then took off with all the provisions. Other key crew members are believed to be still onboard.
“We understand that pirates hijacked the fishing vessel to hijack a big ship off the ocean,” Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the head of Somalia’s maritime force, told Reuters. “They dropped its 10 Yemeni crew and a Somali guard inland and disappeared with the boat together with the food, cook, captain, and engineer.”
At their height, Somali pirates took about 200 boats a year before the industry was slowed by a series of preventative measures, including an EU-backed naval force and Ocean Shield, a NATO counter-piracy operation that ended last year.
Boat owners also tightened security with measures like armed guards, panic rooms, and barbed wire over the lower decks.
Some of the most notable attacks in that time included:
- The MV Seabourn Spirit, a commercial cruise ship that was attacked in 2005 by pirates using rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The ship’s captain was able to fend them off using evasive measures.
- The Sirius Star, a tanker under a Saudi Arabian flag with $100 million of crude oil on board, which was taken by Somali pirates in 2008. The pirates released the boat after a $3 million ransom was parachuted onboard.
- The Maersk Alabama, a commercial vessel under an American flag, which was taken by Somali pirates in 2009. Later dramatized in the film “Captain Phillips,” four pirates held the boat for four days before escaping in a lifeboat with the captain, who was ultimately rescued by Navy SEALs.
- The FV Prantalay 12, a fishing vessel under a Taiwanese flag, which was taken by Somali pirates in 2010 and used as a mothership before it sank a year later. Some of the crew was held captive for five years before the pirates traded them – but not before six people died.
- The FV Naham 3, a fishing vessel under an Omani flag, which was taken by Somali pirates in 2012. One crew member was killed in the attack, and the remaining crew was held captive for four years before the pirates traded them for a $2 million ransom in 2012. They say they ate rats to survive.
A local elder tells the AP the pirates are hijacking boats again because they have no other way of making money.
“Foreign fishermen destroyed their livelihoods and deprived them of proper fishing,” Salad Nur told the wire service.