In an advisory notice issued Friday, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) warned that pirates had hijacked a dhow in the vicinity of Eyl, a city in northern Somalia that was once a hub for maritime piracy. Local authorities suggest that they may intend to use the small vessel for hijacking a merchant ship further offshore.
"Some crew have been put ashore and the [dhow] is now proceeding to sea; course, speed and destination unknown. Vessels are advised to exercise extreme caution," UKMTO warned.
Residents of Eyl told Reuters that local pirates were seeking a target. "We understand that pirates hijacked the fishing vessel to hijack a big ship off the ocean," said Abdirahman Mohamud, head of maritime police forces in Puntland. He added that the pirates had kept the dhow's captain, cook and engineer on board.
EU NAVFOR, Europe's joint anti-piracy operation off Somalia, said that it is working with its Somali counterparts to find out more about the dhow hijacking. It called on mariners to exercise vigilance in the area given the recent renewal of pirate activity.
EU NAVFOR has stepped up its counter-piracy patrols off Somalia following the attack on the product tanker Aris 13 earlier in the month. After a firefight with Somali maritime police, the pirates gave up the ship without a ransom. The pirates said that they ended the hijacking when they learned that the Aris 13 had been chartered by a Somali businessmen.
“We are all relieved that the crew from Aris 13 are now safe and able to contact their families. The attack highlights that we must not become complacent as the threat is real," said EU NAVFOR’s Force Commander, Rafael Fernández-Pintado Muñoz-Rojas. "I am proud of the men and women in my force who are working tirelessly to deter attacks on seafarers and their vessels.”