Liberian Tanker Exchanges Gunfire with Pirates in Gulf of Aden

Pirate boat exchanged gunfire with the security guards on a tanker (file photo)

Published Mar 21, 2024 3:13 PM by The Maritime Executive


For the second time in as many days, a commercial vessel reports being approached by pirates in the Gulf of Aden. Today’s incident resulted in an exchange of gunfire before the pirates were chased away and comes as authorities have warned that multiple pirate action groups are on the prowl off Somalia.

The vessel, which was identified as the Liberian-register tanker Yamilah III (74,886 dwt) by EUNAVFOR Atalanta, was reported to be approximately 100 nautical miles southeast of Nishtun, Yemen in the Gulf of Aden. The UK Maritime Trade Organizations said the master of the tanker reported sighting a small boat approaching the tanker which had departed Fujairah, UAE bound for Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. The tanker is managed by a company in the UAE.

The report said the small boat followed the tanker before beginning an approach. When it was at a close distance the armed security guards aboard the tanker fired warning shots. Unlike yesterday’s incident where the pirates withdrew, the report said there was an exchange of small arms fire between the pirates and security guards. The pirate boat departed after the exchange of fire.

Yesterday, a bulk carrier identified by EUNAVFOR as the Liberian-registered New Leonidas (170,500 dwt), reported it was followed for approximately 20 minutes by a small boat. They reported the people in the boat were armed and they could see a ladder in the boat. When the pirates approached, the armed guards on the bulker fired warning shots and the pirates departed without returning fire. Yesterday’s incident was in the same general area as it was reported to be 160 nautical miles southeast of Salalah, Oman.

The security operations for the region have issued multiple warnings in recent days highlighting increased activity in the region. EUNAVFOR believes possible four pirate action groups are currently active in the region looking for targets.

Having successfully stopped three recent incidents in the region, commanders from the Indian Navy yesterday highlighted their increased patrols in the region. Ajay Bhatt, the Minister of State for Defence, since 2008, India has deployed approximately 110 vessels to provide security in the region. He said they have escorted 3,440 ships and over 25,000 seafarers to ensure the freedom of navigation in the region.

EUNAVFOR Atalanta reports the incident with the Yamilah III, which they classified as an attempted attack, was the 24th incident since November 2023. Reuters is reporting that it spoke with one of the piracy groups and they have stepped up efforts believing the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea could be distracting international naval forces and providing an opening for resuming their piracy efforts.

The hijacking of the Navibulgar bulker Ruen in December was reported to be the first successful Somali piracy attack since 2017. An attack the prior month on a chemical tanker was stopped by U.S. naval forces and when the pirates attempted to flee, they were apprehended by the Americans. The Maritime Security Center for the Horn of Africa warned this week that the possibility of piracy incidents has increased and that ships should be taking extra precautions in a wider area as the pirates are now using motherships in a range up to 600 nautical miles from Somalia.