Ongoing Incident: Bulker Boarded off Somalia

vessel boarded off Somalia
Merchant vessel was boarded east of Somalia in the Arabian Sea (UKMTO)

Published Jan 4, 2024 11:25 AM by The Maritime Executive


In a still developing situation, an identified merchant vessel is reporting that it has been boarded in the Arabian Sea between Somalia and Yemen. The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organizations confirms it has received the report and is currently working with the authorities to investigate the situation.

Some reports are identifying the vessel as a bulk carrier registered in Liberia. UKMTO places the vessel approximately 460 miles to the east of Eyl, Somalia. Their alert says that five to six armed individuals were aboard the vessel and that the crew of the ship was retreating to the secure citadel onboard. 

British security consultants Ambrey in their alert adds that it believes the vessel was sailing to Bahrain. 

The situation is very similar to the incident in December when a group of pirates boarded a Navibulgar vessel the Ruen (42,300 dwt) registered in Malta which was in a similar location approximately 380 nautical miles east of the island of Socotra, Yemen. The crew was able to secure themselves but later reports said the pirates broke into the citadel. The vessel was taken to the coast of Somalia where it continues to be held. The pirates released one of the crewmembers who was injured into the custody of the Indian Navy which reported the individual was being taken to India for medical treatment.

The Indian Navy and Coastguard were increasing patrols in portions of the Indian Ocean after the previous hijacking and then a drone attack attributed to Iran on a tanker bound for India. The international coalition has been focusing most of its attention on the Red Sea and areas around the Bab el-Mandeb Strait to confront the threat from the Houthi rebels.

The European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) - Operation ATALANTA is the primary initiative focusing on security in the region off Somalia. Prior to the end of 2023, there had been no pirate activity in the region for years. Since December in addition to the Navibulgar vessel, five small fishing vessels were reported as being commandeered in the region. Despite the lowering of the security warning in the region, EUNAVFOR has called for vigilance and for vessels to voluntarily register with the authorities when transiting the area.