The pirates that hijacked the tanker Aris 13 off Somalia have claimed that they are fishermen whose equipment was destroyed by illegal fishing vessels.
Eight crewmen from the tanker are currently being held captive at an anchorage off the north coast of Puntland, Somalia, close to Alula.
The ship was en route from Djibouti to Mogadishu, when it sent a distress signal, saying it was being approached by high-speed boats.
The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry has confirmed that eight of its nationals were on board.
The BBC reports Ali Shire Mohamud Osman, the district commissioner in the town of Alula, as saying he was trying to determine if the gunmen really were fishermen or were organized pirates.
"If we confirm that they are pirates, I will ask them to leave the area immediately. Otherwise, we will see how we can save the vessel," he said.
The vessel was carrying oil and was owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite conflicting reports over the flag it was sailing under, he told the BBC.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has urged the shipping industry to apply diligently IMO guidance and best management practices in the wake of the hijack.
“While we have seen a very welcome decline in piracy off Somalia since the last reported hijack by Somali pirates in 2012, the reality is that piracy off the coast of Somalia has not been eradicated and the underlying conditions have not changed. Merchant shipping should continue to take protective measures against possible piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean through diligent application of IMO guidance and Best Management Practices,” Lim said.
He also called upon the Federal Government of Somalia and its regional authorities in Puntland to take prompt action to ensure the safe and speedy release of the eight Sri Lankan seafarers.
Data on incidents reported to IMO shows that the hijack of the tanker Aris 13, on March 13, is the first reported hijack of a vessel covered by IMO regulations by Somali pirates since the tanker Smyrni in May 2012. Since 2012, although piracy has been largely contained, Somali pirates have continued to attempt to hijack ships, but less frequently. The most recent reported attempted attack in the region was on the U.K.-flagged product tanker CPO Korea in October 2016. In that incident, the ship was reported safe after the attack failed.
Ships transiting the high-risk area are advised to follow IMO guidance and best management practices. Specifically, they should register with the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa (MSCHOA), report to the U.K. Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) office in Dubai, which acts as the primary point of contact for merchant vessels and liaison with military forces in the region, implement IMO guidance and Best Management Practices (BMP) and follow the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC).
BMP4 is available here.