On Tuesday, Somali pirates captured an Iranian fishing boat for use as a mother ship for attacks on larger merchant vessels, according to the mayor of a port town in Puntland. In the past, Somali pirates often captured fishing vessels and their crews in order to extend their range, and they successfully operated as far out as the west coast of India.
Ali Shire, the top official in the town of Haabo, northern Puntland, informed Reuters of the hijacking. "The Iranian fishing vessel does not have a license [to fish] in Puntland," he said. Somali pirates frequently cite illegal, unlicensed and unregulated fishing by foreign vessels as a source of grievance.
Iranian state media did not provide additional information on the attacks, but noted that the Iranian Navy has patrolled the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 in order to provide security for the nation's merchant shipping. In April, the Iranian frigate Sabalan and the logistics vessel Lavan took over the patrol route from the destroyer Naqdi and the fleet auxiliary Tonb.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been on an upswing in recent months after a five-year lull, motivated by famine and poverty and enabled by reductions in maritime security expenditures. Many of the recent incidents have affected smaller vessels on Somali itineraries, but attacks on international shipping (like the hijackings of the OS 35 and the Aris 13) show that the pirates have retained the ability to strike far from the Somali coast.