Bulker Anchors off Somalia as Pirates are Reported on the Prowl for Targets

hijacked bulker
Hijacked bulker Abdullah being shadowed by EU forces (EUNAVFOR)

Published Mar 14, 2024 3:12 PM by The Maritime Executive


The hijacked Bangladeshi bulker Abdullah anchored off Somalia on Thursday morning after unconfirmed reports of a possible failed rescue mission. At the same time, multiple security agencies are cautioning that they believe the pirate groups are prowling the waters for more vessels including possibly using the Navibulgar bulker Ruen they seized in December 2023.

With the monsoon season over and emboldened by their recent successes, several pirate groups are thought to now be hunting other targets. The security operation Maritime Security Centre - Horn of Africa (MSCHoA) and EUNAVFOR Atalanta are speculating that as many as five groups are active from three camps in Somalia spread out between the north, center, and south coast. They warn that the pirates are likely operating from mother boats scouting targets in favorable sea conditions for boarding.

The Abdallah was reported anchored near the Habyo port and Garacad along the central Somali coast. Government officials are saying that no contact has been established directly with the pirates but they are working with the international agencies. EUNAVFOR reports it is in contact with both Bangladesh and Somalia while the shipping company is also involving a UK-based insurance company to act as a go-between. 

Atalanta confirmed the vessel’s arrival off Somalia saying that their air and sea resources were tracking the vessel for more than 24 hours. They said that visual information shows at least 12 confirmed alleged pirates aboard the vessel. They are saying they may be from the same camp that also seized the Ruen in December.

While the EU operation is only acknowledging monitoring the bulker, the Daily Observer newspaper and others in Bangladesh are saying there were reports of shots fired late on Wednesday. The unconfirmed report speculates that a rescue attempt was underway before the vessel reached Somalia saying that an unidentified navy vessel approached the Abdullah. The pirates reportedly opened fire or possibly exchanged fire with the navy vessel which withdrew. It is possible that it was the monitoring operation and the pirates became spooked, but the newspaper says the pirates again threatened the lives of the crew telling them they would be killed if rescuers attempted to board the vessel.

MSCHoA and EUNAVFOR are saying that the danger zone has been extended north of Eyl up to a distance of 1,000 nautical miles.

While the Abdullah anchored, the Ruen departed and for the past 24 hours was reported heading east. The security operations are speculating it could be used as a mother ship for additional attacks. They are also citing that six dhows were hijacked in January. Further, an unidentified Iranian fishing dhow captured by the pirates is working in the region with EUNAVFOR warning it “is expected to make multiple attempts until it finds a ship to board.”

While the situation remains fluid with heightened warnings going out to all shipping, recriminations are mounting in Bangladesh over the incident. The newspapers are citing reports from Ambrey and others that the Abdullah appeared not to have taken precautions, such as razor wire or water hoses, while they are citing SK Shipping’s lack of security guards aboard the vessel.

Parent company Kabir Group and government officials are being quoted as saying that hundreds of vessels have been taken and returned peacefully. They said they were working to make contact with the pirates to negotiate the release of the crew.