EU Warns of Continued Piracy Danger After Several Suspicious Approaches

Indian Navy rescued the Bulgarian-owned bulker Ruen last month after being held for months by pirates (Indian Navy)

Published Apr 26, 2024 2:53 PM by The Maritime Executive


The maritime security effort to protect against piracy along the Horn of Africa issued an update warning calling for ships to maintain a heightened state of vigilance in light of the recent escalation in piracy threats. Data from the EU NAVFOR Atalanta shows two suspicious approaches coming a day apart in the past week in the Gulf of Sudan region and the western Indian Ocean.

The warning highlights an area within 700 nautical miles of the Somali coast, and specifically the 500 nautical miles east of Socotra, as the highest level of danger. They estimate that two pirate action groups or more, remain active in the area. 

The Danish-registered product tanker Torm Australia reported a suspicious approach on April 20 while underway from India to South Africa. The master of the 50,000 dwt tanker saw three skiffs in the vicinity of a green trawler approaching while they were 530 nautical miles east of Socotra. Similarly, eleven days earlier, the Singapore-registered product tanker Hafnia Caterina (50,000 dwt) reported two skiffs also with a green fishing dhow approached while they were 480 nautical miles east of Socotra and south of the position of the Torm vessel.

The day after the Torm tanker reported the suspicious approach, the Panama-flagged MSC Diego (56,000 dwt) reported an approach while it was 50 miles southeast of Socotra on April 21. The containership was heading toward the Persian Gulf with scheduled stops in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. In that incident, three skiffs made a suspicious approach.

Data shows there were also two suspicious approaches in late March. The Yamilah III, a 74,800 dwt crude oil tanker registered in Liberia reported it as an attempted attack. A total of three vessels were assaulted and three more approached in the past 30 days.

The warning states that the payment of ransom could create a new wave of dhow hijackings that could be used to attack merchant ships. The Bangladeshi-owned bulker Abdulla was released on April 12 after ransom was paid. The vessel with its 23 crew reached the Al Hamriya Port in Dubai on April 21.

EU NAVFOR Atalanta also notes that the conclusion of the monsoon period could further facilitate piracy activity in the region.

Currently, they have no ongoing cases after the release of the Abdullah and the rescue of the Ruen by the Indian Navy. However, Atalanta continues to assess the threat as “moderate,” saying that an attack is a “realistic possibility” off the Somalia coast.